AuthorTopic: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.  (Read 8966 times)

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #45 on: January 18, 2018, 07:09:33 AM »
As you many remember, we live in Larchmont and are thus well and truly fucked long term.

I see two choices possible:

1- Sell out now while you can still get a decent price from the next greatest fool.  Be sure to have the real estate agent show the house on a dry day.

2- Raise the house up on stilts and buy a kayak.

RE
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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #46 on: January 18, 2018, 03:49:09 PM »
As you many remember, we live in Larchmont and are thus well and truly fucked long term.

I see two choices possible:

1- Sell out now while you can still get a decent price from the next greatest fool.  Be sure to have the real estate agent show the house on a dry day.

2- Raise the house up on stilts and buy a kayak.

RE


The great SLOSH cometh, retreat to higher ground amigo....
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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🌊 On the Chesapeake, A Precarious Future of Rising Seas and High Tides
« Reply #47 on: January 23, 2018, 01:10:31 AM »
Great Video!

RE

http://e360.yale.edu/features/on-the-chesapeake-a-precarious-future-of-rising-seas-and-high-tides

On the Chesapeake, A Precarious Future of Rising Seas and High Tides


Mike Draper raised his house in southern Dorchester County seven feet to protect it from rising waters.  Photo by Dave Harp

Maryland’s Dorchester County is ground zero for climate change on Chesapeake Bay, as rising seas claim more and more land. An e360 video explores the quiet beauty of this liquid landscape and how high tides and erosion are putting the bay’s rural communities at risk.

January 22, 2018

Video
https://vimeo.com/251846259

I’m making a film in the Chesapeake Bay landscapes of my boyhood, posing for a close-up with ball and glove where 60 years ago I shagged flies out front of my Dad’s fishing cabin. The camera backs away and I’m ass-deep in salt water — centerfield, this used to be. The tall piney woods around the long-gone cabin, thick enough I worried then about getting lost, are skeletal now, falling into the water.

Cinematographer Dave Harp and I are longtime collaborators on Chesapeake projects and knew what we’d find when we began working on this film. The great estuary’s 11,000 miles of tidal shoreline have been eroding for centuries as wind and wave and ice take their toll. But now there’s a new ballgame. Emerging climate science has documented an ominous acceleration of the sea level rise that gradually formed the Chesapeake over thousands of years. The latest projections for the Chesapeake region are two feet or more of sea level rise by mid-century, and as much as six feet by century’s end. That’s a troubling combination of higher water and sinking land around the bay.

Dave and I have focused our cameras on my old stomping grounds, Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a place where the future is well underway. “Water moves us” is the county’s tourism slogan, both apt and ironic. It’s been called “Maryland’s Everglades” — a wonderland of water and wetlands, tidal creeks and wooded swamps and islands,  nurturing an abundance of seafood and wildlife, and home to historic fishing communities and the internationally-known Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. With its hundreds of thousands of acres of land, Dorchester ranks fourth largest among Maryland’s 23 counties; but it will shrink to 14th by 2100 as nearly half the county turns to open water.

To most people, the word “tide” has only vague import — high and low, flooding and ebbing. But “tide” in Dorchester is rich with meaning: school bus schedules and shopping trips revolve around it; emergency responders reposition ambulances; and property owners truck in soil on which to park their cars, grow vegetable gardens, and install septic tanks.

In the southern portions of the county you can easier come by a bushel of crabs than a wheelbarrow load of dirt, observed Mike Draper, a recent homebuyer near the tiny settlement of Crocheron. We filmed as he jacked his house 7 feet in the air and built a low dike around the yard, while his son, Dan, prepared to fish tasty blue crabs from the tidal ditch along their road frontage.

But while you can raise a house if you’ve got the money (it cost Draper about $38,000 including the new foundation), you can’t raise the long, lonely marsh roadways serving residents throughout the lower-lying half of Dorchester. At least you can’t raise them easily. Dorchester has roads where the pavement is up to 5 feet thick—layer after layer applied, a couple inches at a time, as the road slowly sinks.
Homes in Mantoloking, New Jersey, off of Barnegat Bay, damaged by Sandy in 2012.
ALSO ON YALE E360

How rising seas and coastal storms are drowning the U.S. flood insurance program. Read more.

Even that may not be enough, says Ricky Travers, president of the Dorchester County Council. “I hope and pray in my time I don’t have to tell people they have to abandon their hard-earned property values, their communities, their heritage… because of rising water,” he says.

Dave and I, along with filmmaker Sandy Cannon Brown, began this film to educate people to the threats of climate change; but it became an education to us in how science might better communicate such complex information to local citizens.

We knew going in that phrases like global warming and sea level rise would never pass the lips of most of our interviewees. A woman whose family took my late wife and I fishing at 4 a.m. on our first date (she married me anyway), stubbornly refused to go on camera. Eventually she said what was on her mind: It would be too easy for us to “put me between two PhD’s and make me look like a fool.” Besides, “I just hate how the media puts fear in our hearts, talking about the land sinking and humans changing the climate.”

We talked some more, and she gave us an interview about how forests that once blocked her view of her church were gone now, about how the tide seemed to come over the land so much more frequently.

Many others just did not want to get into the notions of the seas rising; but yes, erosion did seem to have gotten worse than ever, some said. Many are watermen, the Chesapeake term for commercial fisherman. They believe what they see, focus on where to fish tomorrow, not on the century ahead.
Saltwater intrusion has killed wide swaths of forest in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County. 

Saltwater intrusion has killed wide swaths of forest in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County.   Photo by Dave Harp

“They’re not wrong about erosion. It’s happening very quickly, and it is very noticeable,” said Mike Scott, a geographer at Salisbury University, one county over from Dorchester. “Sea level rise at this point, unlike erosion, is happening very slowly — slight enough up to now that it’s actually very difficult to measure unless you’re taking very precise measurements.”

But the two processes are not separate, Scott explains. Rising seas make erosion worse, and the former is accelerating dramatically. According to Scott, the key is to acknowledge the threat and implement public policies that lead to an orderly retreat. “As we lose marshes, we’re going to need spaces on the landward edge for them to move into — we’re going to need to buy the development rights to such places from the people who own them now.” In places like Dorchester, he says, “if we can get hold of this in the next five to seven years, we have time to fix it that way. If we wait, then we will be in crisis mode.”
ALSO ON YALE E360

Why does Trump want to pull the plug on the cleanup of the Chesapeake? Read more.

The county recently revised its building codes to require higher elevations for new building in flood-prone areas. It’s just a start.

The biggest challenge, says Anna Sierra, Dorchester’s emergency services director, is that “people are so tied to their culture and history here — incredibly proud of it, and they should be. Dorchester is a story of survival and adaptability to storms and flooding since the 1600s.

“It’s very challenging to recognize… long-term, it may all be inundated.”

 — Tom Horton

About the Filmmakers:

Tom Horton has covered the environment for newspapers and magazines since 1972 and has authored several books on Chesapeake Bay. He currently writes for the monthly Bay Journal and teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland.

Sandy Cannon-Brown, founder and president of VideoTakes, Inc., is an award-winning environmental filmmaker and teacher. She was an associate director for American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking. She lives in St. Michaels, Maryland and focuses her independent films on issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

A lifelong Marylander, Dave Harp operates a corporate and editorial photography business in Cambridge, Maryland. He served as the staff photographer for the Hagerstown Morning Herald and was the photographer for The Baltimore Sun Magazine for nearly a decade.
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🌊 The Slow-Motion Catastrophe Threatening 350-Year-Old Farms
« Reply #48 on: March 04, 2018, 03:18:21 AM »
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/maryland-salt-farms/554663/?utm_source=atltw

The Slow-Motion Catastrophe Threatening 350-Year-Old Farms

Sea-level rise might be causing salt to creep into the soil around America’s lower eastern shore.
A flooded field of corn sprouts
Low-lying cornfields near the Chesapeake Bay are inundated with saltwater. Kate Tully


    Virginia Gewin Mar 2, 2018 Science


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On the lower eastern shore of Maryland, the stately Almodington plantation overlooks the Manokin River as it drains into the Chesapeake Bay. First surveyed in 1663, the expansive farm sits a few miles from Princess Anne, a town named for the daughter of King George II.

For 350 years, this region’s rich, sandy soils and warm, moist climate have been ideal for growing fruits and vegetable. Tomato production supported 300 canneries in the area at its peak in the early 1900s. Today, however, Somerset County is the country’s sixth-largest poultry producer. The county’s roughly 60 row-crop farmers now grow corn and soybeans for chicken feed.

While the farms have adapted to meet shifting demand, it is the unseen changes happening underfoot that may have a long-lasting impact. In the fields beyond the picturesque manor, six-foot-tall salt-tolerant weeds thrive. Nearby, a decaying corn cob lies in bare, bleached soil pocked with patches of blue-green algae. Last year’s dismal corn yield was this field’s last: The leasing farmer abandoned a 30-acre parcel. It’s amazing corn plants grew at all. “The soil salt content is six to seven parts per thousand. Corn, typically, won’t grow once salt is more than 0.8 parts per thousand,” says Keryn Gedan, a wetland ecologist.

On a windy, overcast October day, Gedan, from George Washington University, and her colleague Kate Tully, an agroecologist from the University of Maryland, are checking salinity levels at several of their seven test sites in the region, farmlands only a few feet above sea level. “We knew this was an area where we were likely to see impacts,” says Gedan.

Sea-level rise near the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is twice as high as the global average. It’s not solely the result of atmospheric warming, melting ice, and expanding waters. The ground is also subsiding. This is happening for a variety of reasons, most notably aquifer withdrawals and the continued settling of land that had been pushed up by ice sheets to the north during the last Ice Age. “We are sinking and the water is rising,” says Michael Scott, a geographer at Salisbury University in Maryland.

The result of this slow-motion catastrophe is that saltwater is threatening America’s first colonial farms.

Salt is a notorious land degrader. On several occasions between 2,400 B.C. and 1,200 A.D., Mesopotamians fled once-productive agricultural regions when salt accumulated in the soil following excessive irrigation. Today, salt may be slithering onto the lower eastern shore’s farmlands by any number of routes—chronic flooding from an increasing number of high tides, saltwater intrusion into aquifers, and even wicking upward through the soil from shallow water tables.

We don’t know the true extent of the Chesapeake Bay area’s salt problem because state and federal agencies have just put resources toward investigations. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ most recent regional report on chloride levels in lower-eastern-shore aquifers was produced almost 30 years ago. The 1990 report predicted it would take 50 years for groundwater with a perceptibly salty taste to reach a future Princess Anne well—but this was based on projected pumping increases. Thirty years ago, climate change and sea-level rise were not on the radar. The area’s chief concern has been preventing agricultural runoff into the bay—a problem that will likely be made worse by salt.

With little existing ability to predict where salt will move, it will be difficult to adapt, much less preserve, farmland and the cultural heritage that goes with it. Gedan and Tully cobbled together funding to document the salt damage in the area. New funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help them expand their efforts. “The whole region is a window in the future,” says Gedan.

“We are not treating this like the crisis that it is,” Scott adds. “If we don’t start operating as a collective effort soon, suddenly the problems will get much more expensive.”

Not far from Almodington, Bob Fitzgerald farms land that has been in his family since 1666. His father, born in 1884, farmed this land with mules. Fitzgerald and his brother tromped through the nearby marsh as boys. Now, at 79, Fitzgerald says the marsh is rotten and the salt is seeping onto their soybean fields. The tide gate he installed helps, but high tides are getting higher and more frequent each year.

“It’s not a new phenomenon,” says Fitzgerald. “But it’s accelerated immensely in the last 15 years.” He has studied historical maps of the region extensively. He laments that he could write a book called The Lost Villages of Somerset County. Past the ghost forest of salt-affected trees, unoccupied homes dot the road from his house to nearby Deal Island, a community grappling with how to adapt to sea-level rise.

Fitzgerald’s observations match existing data, according to Sarah Wilkins, the former site coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rates of sea-level rise have accelerated over time, she says, based on tide-gauge data that dates back more than 70 years in some areas of the bay.

Kevin Anderson, a fourth-generation farmer in Princess Anne, estimates he’s lost roughly 50 acres to salt damage in the last 20 years. With an operation that spans 4,000 acres and a successful seed-conditioning business, Anderson says he is in the fortunate position to expand his operation by leasing other land. Others aren’t so lucky. If he, like other farmers, were dependent solely on acreage he owns, he says salt damage would be one of his top concerns.

Anderson and Fitzgerald, like most residents in this area, are accustomed to dramatic environmental changes. And they are nothing if not resilient. More than 400 islands have disappeared into the Chesapeake Bay since the area was settled 400 years ago. Holland Island had more than 300 residents 150 years ago, says Fitzgerald. Now, it’s gone. “When the people moved to nearby Deal Island or Crisfield, they moved the entire houses, bricks and all.”

Anderson and Fitzgerald seem resigned to some losses. But those losses may exacerbate nutrient-pollution problems that have long plagued the bay. Many coastal farms are loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus, from a time when the enormous waste produced by chicken farms was often dumped in excess on agricultural fields. While that practice is no longer commonplace—and a new $1.4 million manure-to-energy plant now under construction will help dispose of the waste—saltwater intrusion could send those legacy nutrients into the bay.

“We expect large nutrient losses as coastal farms undergo saltwater intrusion,” Tully said at the Ecological Society of America conference in Portland, Oregon, in August. “If you want to extract nitrogen or phosphorus from the soil, you add saltwater.” And those legacy nutrients, she explains, will likely have an outsize effect on water quality because of their proximity to the bay.

Coastal farms are found on fingers of land that extend into the Chesapeake Bay. In between the fingers are a vast network of salty tidal rivers and creeks. The bay and its tidal tributaries boast 11,684 miles of shoreline. Yet, only 10 percent of the land drains well. Artificial drainage is widespread. At least two-thirds of the land area has been ditched, but the ditches are a mixed blessing, not only serving their intended purpose but also acting as a conduit for the saltwater to enter the fields.

“When you are only feet above sea level to begin with, it’s a fine line between draining freshwater off your land and allowing saltwater on land,” says Don Webster, a waterfowl-habitat specialist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in Cambridge. “So much of this farmland that has been influenced by salt is right on the front line of Chesapeake Bay—land that will be important to create buffers between the farm and the bay.”

And it’s not just the Chesapeake Bay area. “Sea-level rise is happening now and penetrating deep into the coastal interior of North Carolina,” Emily Bernhardt, a biogeochemist at Duke University, told the Portland ESA meeting. About 30 percent of her study area is agricultural land. “Much of the land vulnerable to sea-level rise—5,900 square kilometers of North Carolina’s coastal plain—is subject to saltwater intrusion.” The degree of vulnerability depends to a great extent on whether people continue to maintain or abandon the pumping and water-control structures that were built to allow agriculture.

In Maryland’s Somerset county, berms built decades ago to block tides from farmland have now failed in some areas. And landowners are taking steps to protect productive fields. Almodington’s owner, Kevin Barr, an avid waterfowl hunter, plans to move many cubic tons of earth to turn a 25-acre salt-damaged parcel into freshwater wetlands. “I’m interested in finding the right balance between agriculture and wildlife,” he says. “But I’m not dependent on the farm to pay my bills.”

Freshwater wetlands will prevent runoff from the crop fields from reaching the bay, but marshes, which help control floods and are crucial wildlife habitat, need real estate as well, and it’s unclear how well they will move upland. “When wetlands have nowhere to migrate, huge chunks of habitat will be lost as sea-level rise continues,” says Scott. “We are at one of these threshold times where we still have capability to address this at a price point that isn’t going to hurt a lot of people.”

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established a total maximum daily load for all pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. The clean-up regimen has had modest success, yet farmers bristle at the prospect of additional regulations.

Agriculture has survived over three centuries in this area, but the farmable area is being steadily chipped away. Somerset County, home to 211,200 acres, has roughly 28,500 cropped acres. Around 4,000 acres of now-saturated soils have been put into agricultural retirement programs in recent decades.

Facing regulations or loss of land or both, farmers are finding that they must embrace two things: trust and data. The former is key in crafting a plan to adapt to changing conditions, says Michael Paolisso, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland who leads a project to bolster resilience in this inundated coastal community. But it’s also the most elusive. “In my experience, farmers aren’t as leery of climate change as much as they are the socioeconomic or political changes that come with it,” Paolisso says.

Scott Andres, a hydrogeologist at the Delaware Geological Survey, also feels that communication problems between the agricultural community and government agencies have been a hurdle. With property values in mind, many farmers opt not to share their concerns about salt with officials.

In the past couple of years, Michael Scott, of Salisbury University, has received calls from a handful of farmers in the region, asking for information on which land areas are likely to be impacted first by sea-level rise. They want any insights that can help them decide which lands to reasonably hold onto and which they’d be better off letting go. “I don’t have a lot of good answers. Most of the ones I have are fairly unpalatable—but we’re trying to help,” says Scott, who grew up in the area. Still, he laments, “the culture of the region feels under threat.”

Scientists might have better answers if they had better data to draw on, although Kevin Anderson, the Princess Anne farmer, cautions that how the data is used is equally important. “My grandfather taught agriculture and he told his students agriculture is as much an art as it is a science,” he says.

Models of sea-level rise are quite good, but saltwater intrusion is harder to piece together. It’s not just about the elevation of the land, it’s about the hydrology of the groundwater. For saltwater intrusion, we can see it on the landscape and test for it if we know where to look, but we’re not exactly sure how it all goes together, says Scott. “There’s a lot going on down there.”

To better understand the links between sea-level rise and the landward migration of saltwater, Andres recently received funding to track salinity shifts in both wells and streams. Kate Tully and Keryn Gedan plan to produce a map of salt levels in soils and hand-dug wells, soil types, hydrogeologic layers, and ditches—and then model where the salt will likely move.

Meanwhile, Jeff Allenby, the director of conservation technology at the Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, Maryland, is piecing together one of the largest high-resolution land-cover data sets in the world. Updated as new satellite imagery becomes available, it will provide real-time ability to track sea-level rise, as well as identify areas of declining crop health and opportunities for marsh migration upland.

The key, Allenby stresses, will be to find a balance that keeps farmers farming while minimizing their impact on the environment. “The agricultural economy is critical to almost every county in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” he says. “Counties couldn’t survive without it.”
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Re: 🌊 The Slow-Motion Catastrophe Threatening 350-Year-Old Farms
« Reply #49 on: March 04, 2018, 07:21:33 AM »
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/maryland-salt-farms/554663/?utm_source=atltw

The Slow-Motion Catastrophe Threatening 350-Year-Old Farms

//
Sea-level rise near the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is twice as high as the global average. It’s not solely the result of atmospheric warming, melting ice, and expanding waters. The ground is also subsiding. This is happening for a variety of reasons, most notably aquifer withdrawals and the continued settling of land that had been pushed up by ice sheets to the north during the last Ice Age. “We are sinking and the water is rising,” says Michael Scott, a geographer at Salisbury University in Maryland.

The result of this slow-motion catastrophe is that saltwater is threatening America’s first colonial farms.

//
And it’s not just the Chesapeake Bay area. “Sea-level rise is happening now and penetrating deep into the coastal interior of North Carolina,” Emily Bernhardt, a biogeochemist at Duke University, told the Portland ESA meeting. About 30 percent of her study area is agricultural land. “Much of the land vulnerable to sea-level rise—5,900 square kilometers of North Carolina’s coastal plain—is subject to saltwater intrusion.” The degree of vulnerability depends to a great extent on whether people continue to maintain or abandon the pumping and water-control structures that were built to allow agriculture.

This is a live issue for this entire region, as you probably know. Subsidence and sea-level rise.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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🌊 Hampton Roads sea level rise is accelerating, report says
« Reply #50 on: March 13, 2018, 12:16:12 AM »
Surly needs to invest in a Kayak.

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https://pilotonline.com/news/local/environment/article_8c7de40e-261b-11e8-86b1-9f38ed9e53b8.html

Environment
Hampton Roads sea level rise is accelerating, report says


    By Dave Mayfield
    The Virginian-Pilot
    Mar 12, 2018 Updated 4 hrs ago

Dave Mayfield

Reporter

Dave Mayfield has written about business, the military and the Internet, led two reporting teams and served as a copy editor a couple of times during three decades at The Virginian-Pilot. He started covering the environment, his dream job, in 2015.

    dave.mayfield@pilotonline.com
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Rising seas: 'Florida is about to be wiped off the map'
« Reply #51 on: July 28, 2018, 11:44:17 AM »
Rising seas: 'Florida is about to be wiped off the map'

Sea level rises are not some distant threat; for many Americans they are very real. In an extract from her chilling new book, Rising, Elizabeth Rush details how the US coastline will be radically transformed in the coming years

Elizabeth Rush

Take the six million people who live in south Florida today and divide them into two groups: those who live less than six and a half feet above the current high tide line, and everybody else.

‘Take the six million people who live in south Florida today and divide them into two groups: those who live less than six and a half feet above the current high tide line, and everybody else.’ Photograph: Milkweed Editions


In 1890, just over six thousand people lived in the damp lowlands of south Florida. Since then the wetlands that covered half the state have been largely drained, strip malls have replaced Seminole camps, and the population has increased a thousandfold. Over roughly the same amount of time the number of black college degree holders in the United States also increased a thousandfold, as did the speed at which we fly, the combined carbon emissions of the Middle East, and the entire population of Thailand.

About 60 of the region’s more than 6 million residents have gathered in the Cox Science Building at the University of Miami on a sunny Saturday morning in 2016 to hear Harold Wanless, or Hal, chair of the geology department, speak about sea level rise. “Only 7% of the heat being trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the atmosphere,” Hal begins. “Do you know where the other 93% lives?”

Sea level rise: Miami and Atlantic City fight to stay above water

A teenager, wrists lined in aquamarine beaded bracelets, rubs sleep from her eyes. Returns her head to its resting position in her palm. The man seated behind me roots around in his briefcase for a breakfast bar. No one raises a hand.

“In the ocean,” Hal continues. “That heat is expanding the ocean, which is contributing to sea level rise, and it is also, more importantly, creating the setting for something we really don’t want to have happen: rapid melt of ice.”

A woman wearing a sequined teal top opens her Five Star notebook and starts writing things down. The guy behind her shovels spoonfuls of passionfruit–flavored Chobani yogurt into his tiny mouth. Hal’s three sons are perched in the next row back. One has a ponytail, one is in a suit, and the third crosses and uncrosses his gray street sneakers. The one with the ponytail brought a water bottle; the other two sip Starbucks. And behind the rows and rows of sparsely occupied seats, at the very back of the amphitheater, an older woman with a gold brocade bear on her top paces back and forth.

A real estate developer interrupts Hal to ask: “Is someone recording this?”

“Yes.” The cameraman coughs. “Besides,” Hal adds, “I say the same damn thing at least five times a week.” Hal, who is in his early seventies and has been studying sea level rise for over 40 years, pulls at his Burt Reynolds moustache, readjusts his taupe corduroy suit, and continues. On the screen above his head clips from a documentary on climate change show glacial tongues of ice the size of Manhattan tumbling into the sea. “The big story in Greenland and Antarctica is that the warming ocean is working its way in, deep under the ice sheets, causing the ice to collapse faster than anyone predicted, which in turn will cause sea levels to rise faster than anyone predicted.”

everglades
‘Dig into geologic history and you discover this: when sea levels have risen in the past, they have usually not done so gradually, but rather in rapid surges.’ Photograph: Milkweed Editions

According to Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, rising sea levels are uncertain, their connection to human activity tenuous. And yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects roughly two feet of rise by century’s end. The United Nations predicts three feet. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates an upper limit of six and a half feet.

Take the 6 million people who live in south Florida today and divide them into two groups: those who live less than six and a half feet above the current high tide line, and everybody else. The numbers slice nearly evenly. Heads or tails: call it in the air. If you live here, all you can do is hope that when you put down roots your choice was somehow prophetic.

But Hal says it doesn’t matter whether you live six feet above sea level or sixty-five, because he, like James Hansen, believes that all of these predictions are, to put it mildly, very, very low. “The rate of sea level rise is currently doubling every seven years, and if it were to continue in this manner, Ponzi scheme style, we would have 205 feet of sea level rise by 2095,” he says. “And while I don’t think we are going to get that much water by the end of the century, I do think we have to take seriously the possibility that we could have something like 15 feet by then.”

It’s a little after nine o’clock. Hal’s sons stop sipping their lattes and the oceanographic scientist behind me puts down his handful of M&M’s. If Hal Wanless is right, every single object I have seen over the past 72 hours – the periodic table of elements hanging above his left shoulder, the buffet currently loaded with refreshments, the smoothie stand at my seaside hotel, the beach umbrellas and oxygen bars, the Johnny Rockets and seashell shop, the lecture hall with its hundreds of mostly empty teal swivel chairs – will all be underwater in the not-so-distant future.

****

Elizabeth Rush.
Elizabeth Rush. Photograph: Stephanie Ewens

One of the few stories I remember from the Bible vividly depicts the natural and social world in crisis. It is the apocalyptic narrative par excellence – Noah’s flood. When I look it up again, however, I am surprised to find that it does not start with a rainstorm or an ark, but earlier, with unprecedented population growth and God’s scorn. It begins: “When human beings began to increase in number on the earth.” I read this line and think about the 6,000 inhabitants of south Florida turning into 6 million in 120 short years. “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become.” I think about the exponential increase in M&M’s, Chobani yogurt cups and grande lattes consumed over that same span of time. The dizzying supply chains, cheap labor and indestructible plastic. “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.’” And then the rain began.

I do not believe in a vengeful God – if God exists at all – so I do not think of the flood as punishment for human sin. What interests me most is what happens to the story when I remove it from its religious framework: Noah’s flood is one of the most fully developed accounts of environmental change in ancient history. It tries to make sense of a cataclysmic earthbound event that happened long ago, before written language, before the domestication of horses, before the first Egyptian mummies and the rise of civilization in Crete. An event for which the teller clearly held humans responsible.

****

Dig into geologic history and you discover this: when sea levels have risen in the past, they have usually not done so gradually, but rather in rapid surges, jumping as much as 50 feet over a short three centuries. Scientists call these events “meltwater pulses” because the near-biblical rise in the height of the ocean is directly correlated to the melting of ice and the process of deglaciation, the very events featured in the documentary footage Hal has got running on a screen above his head.

He shows us a clip of the largest glacial calving event ever recorded. It starts with a chunk of ice the size of Miami’s tallest building tumbling, head over tail, off the tip of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Then the Southeast Financial Center goes, displaying its cool blue underbelly. It is a coltish thing, smooth and oddly muscular. The ground between the two turns to arctic ice dust and the ocean roils up. Next, chunks of ice the size of the Marquis Residences crash away; then the Wells Fargo Center falls, and with it goes 900 Biscayne Bay. Suddenly everything between the Brickell neighborhood and Park West is gone.

Rising Book Jacket

The clip begins again and I watch in awe as a section of the Jakobshavn Glacier half the size of all Miami falls into the sea.

“Greenland is currently calving chunks of ice so massive they produce earthquakes up to six and seven on the Richter scale,” Hal says as the city of ice breaks apart. “There was not much noticeable ice melt before the nineties. But now it accelerates every year, exceeding all predictions. It will likely cause a pulse of meltwater into the oceans.”

In medicine, a pulse is something regular – a predictable throb of blood through veins, produced by a beating heart. It is so reliable, so steady, so definite that lack of a pulse is sometimes considered synonymous with death. A healthy adult will have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, every day, until they don’t. But a meltwater pulse is the opposite. It is an anomaly. The exception to the 15,000-year rule.

From 1900 to 2000 the glacier on the screen retreated inward eight miles. From 2001 to 2010 it pulled back nine more; over a single decade the Jakobshavn glacier lost more ice than it had during the previous century. And then there is this film clip, recorded over 70 minutes, in which the glacier retreats a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. “This is why I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the largest meltwater pulse in modern human history,” Hal says.

As the ice sheets above Hal’s head fall away and the snacks on the buffet disappear, topography is transformed from a backwater physical science into the single most important factor determining the longevity of the Sunshine State. The man seated next to me leans over. “If what he says is even half true,” he whispers, “Florida is about to be wiped off the map.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline K-Dog

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #52 on: July 28, 2018, 03:12:56 PM »
I'm 400 feet up but by the time Chesapeake bay goes under water The Pacific Ocean will be only a mile away.  It will also be warm.



Surly, where can you move close that is at a higher elevation?  Avoid the rush.

Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #53 on: July 28, 2018, 04:11:52 PM »
Surly, where can you move close that is at a higher elevation?  Avoid the rush.

Blue Ridge Mountains neighborhood.  Lynchburg would seem like a decent small metro in western VA.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/oN86d0CdgHQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/oN86d0CdgHQ</a>

Mountains.  Rally BIG Mountains.  The Great Wall that God Built to protect the Independent Souls of the World.

OK, the Appalachians aren't that big, but it's still probably the best neighborhood in the mid-Atlantic states.

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #54 on: July 29, 2018, 06:51:38 PM »
Surly, where can you move close that is at a higher elevation?  Avoid the rush.

Blue Ridge Mountains neighborhood.  Lynchburg would seem like a decent small metro in western VA.

Mountains.  Rally BIG Mountains.  The Great Wall that God Built to protect the Independent Souls of the World.

OK, the Appalachians aren't that big, but it's still probably the best neighborhood in the mid-Atlantic states.

RE

Blue Ridge would be good. Lynchburg was the only city in Virginia not recaptured by the Union before the end of the American Civil War, and shows its traitorous roots by hosting Jerry Falwell's son's criminal grift, including Liberty University, formerly Lynchburg Baptist College and now a billion dollar money machine for the fundy right. Perhaps not entirely unrelated, Lynchburg is also home to the Central Virginia Training School, formerly known as the The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, which was once the Mid-Atlantic capital for compulsory sterilization in service to eugenics.

So I'll probably head south and west. Floyd, VA is utterly charming and a hotbed of likeminded folk.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #55 on: July 29, 2018, 08:06:42 PM »

Mountains.  Rally BIG Mountains.  The Great Wall that God Built to protect the Independent Souls of the World.

OK, the Appalachians aren't that big, but it's still probably the best neighborhood in the mid-Atlantic states.
You know, people sell the Appalachians short.  But, within a day's walk from me, there is old growth forest... why? Because the terrain was too difficult to cut the trees down and get them out.  Before the Industrial Revolution, the only thing that came out of this region was whiskey.... everything else spoiled before it could make it out.
Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #56 on: July 29, 2018, 09:41:14 PM »

Mountains.  Rally BIG Mountains.  The Great Wall that God Built to protect the Independent Souls of the World.

OK, the Appalachians aren't that big, but it's still probably the best neighborhood in the mid-Atlantic states.
You know, people sell the Appalachians short.  But, within a day's walk from me, there is old growth forest... why? Because the terrain was too difficult to cut the trees down and get them out.  Before the Industrial Revolution, the only thing that came out of this region was whiskey.... everything else spoiled before it could make it out.

Same as Alaska.  The only way the Al-Can got built wa through a Herculean feat of Mechanical and Civil Engineering that could only have been accomplished with  lot of human labor and a lot of input of energy, and it still only got all paved in1996, still 2 lanes on most of it and still only fuel stops every 200-300 miles.  It's why the rest of Alaska isn't served by roads, but by Bush Planes and why the Native Villages are all along the coast.  Civilization doesn't penetrate too well into highly mountainous terrain.  Just ask the Afghanis.

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #57 on: July 30, 2018, 05:26:55 AM »
my area is of a similar physical makeup. People only settled here once the railways could deliver food. It grew to have decent subsistence  farms now mostly gone. It is not sufficient in any way shape or form but without constant inputs most of the people would drift away anyways. My elevation here is a hair under 900 ft above sea level. The surrounding hills roughly 5-800 ft above that. Countless lakes and streams. Most of the crown land around still cannot be accessed economically enough to justify it. Prices are picking up though which concerns me I prefer to be forgotten in my slice of paradise.
If its important then try something, fail, disect, learn from it, try again, and again and again until it kills you or you succeed.

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Re: The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.
« Reply #58 on: July 30, 2018, 05:46:29 AM »
my area is of a similar physical makeup. People only settled here once the railways could deliver food. It grew to have decent subsistence  farms now mostly gone. It is not sufficient in any way shape or form but without constant inputs most of the people would drift away anyways. My elevation here is a hair under 900 ft above sea level. The surrounding hills roughly 5-800 ft above that. Countless lakes and streams. Most of the crown land around still cannot be accessed economically enough to justify it. Prices are picking up though which concerns me I prefer to be forgotten in my slice of paradise.

I'm down lower than you at 500' above mean sea level.  However you drive just a little bit north around 30 minutes to Fisshook, you're at 1800'.  Then it drops down again going to Willow.  Alaska is a Bumpy Place.  lol.

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As waters rise, coastal megacities like Mumbai face catastrophe
« Reply #59 on: August 18, 2018, 03:48:29 AM »
As waters rise, coastal megacities like Mumbai face catastrophe
Neglecting to prepare defenses against flooding from rising seas, storm surges or torrential rains risks social and economic chaos


9:30AM, AUGUST 15, 2018
wave on Mumbai seaside promenade

COASTAL IMPACT  A woman poses for a photograph as a wave at high tide crashes over Mumbai’s seaside promenade in July during a pause in the seasonal monsoon rains.

JANAK RATHOD

Each year when the monsoon rain sheets down and the tides swell over coastal Mumbai, Saif shutters his soda shop on Juhu Beach and takes shelter up in the rafters. Still, the water invades through the roof and over the concrete floors, sometimes reaching as high as the freezers full of ice cream.

For 36-year-old Saif, the coastal megacity’s chronic flooding is stressful. “What would happen if too much water comes?” asks Saif, who, like many in India, goes by one name. “I could get swept up with it.” Last year’s torrential floods killed at least 14 people in Mumbai. And in July 2005, when a meter of rain fell in a single day, flooding cost the city about $1.7 billion in damages.

Rebuilding his uninsured shop after the 2005 floods cost Saif about $57,000. He was lucky. When those floodwaters receded after two days, more than 1,000 people had died from drowning, landslides or other flood-related accidents in Mumbai and surrounding areas. “What can we do?” Saif asks. “Who can win against nature?”

Such questions are becoming more urgent in coastal cities at mounting risk of climate-driven flooding. Climate change is raising sea levels, while also making storms more severe and bringing heavier rains to some places. For densely populated cities like Mumbai — the financial heart of India, which is the world’s fastest-growing major economy — those risks threaten to throw personal incomes and national economies into chaos.

“The challenge is getting people to prepare for a risk they can’t yet see,” says Stéphane Hallegatte, lead economist at the World Bank’s Global Facility or Disaster Reduction and Recovery in Washington, D.C. “A very tiny change in sea level can have an enormous impact on risk levels,” he adds.

WATERLOGGED As monsoon rains pounded Mumbai in July, water poured down the steps onto the beach in front of Saif’s soda shop.
 M. SINGH

By 2005, coastal city flooding cost the world an average of $6 billion a year, according to calculations by Hallegatte and colleagues. Even if humankind manages to limit the release of carbon dioxide enough to keep global warming to an average 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — which is highly unlikely — seas will still rise by a global average of about 20 centimeters by 2050, if not more. That’s enough to more than double the frequency of flooding in the tropics, where Mumbai is located, according to a 2017 paper in Scientific Reports.

Global losses from coastal flooding may surpass $1 trillion annually by 2050 unless coastal cities prepare, Hallegatte’s team says. That projection is actually conservative, because it doesn’t include damage from other climate-related flood risks such as heavier rains and stronger storms (SN: 6/27/15, p. 9). Last year, Hurricane Harvey’s extreme rainfall, probably fueled by climate change, caused $125 billion in flood losses in Houston (SN: 1/20/18, p. 6). And in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hurricane Maria caused $90 billion in damages, mostly from winds.

If cities invest enough to just hold steady at their current level of flood risk, future losses would drop drastically, to about $60 billion per year, Hallegatte says. Mumbai’s share would be about $6.4 billion — making it the second-most economically vulnerable city after China’s Guangzhou.

Many of Asia’s fast-growing coastal megacities, with populations of 10 million or more, are vulnerable to multiple flood threats. Mumbai, the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and Manila in the Philippines, among others, face a future of heavier rainfall and higher storm surges. Manila and others, like Indonesia’s Jakarta, are also sinking fast. Some spots in Jakarta are sinking at a rate of 20 to 28 centimeters a year.

“For an individual, it doesn’t matter if the water is coming from sea rise or a storm surge or the clouds, a flood is a flood,” Hallegatte says. “Cities should be looking … at one-meter sea level rise, at least. Because the cost of failure is so big, you need to have a plan for the worst-case scenario.”


Going mega

Mumbai and other fast-growing coastal megacities in Asia are particularly vulnerable to climate-related flooding. Twenty-one of the world’s 31 megacities hug a coastline, 13 of which are in Asia. These cities of 10 million or more often drive their national economies and are home to both rich and poor. As the world’s population balloons, two more Asian coastal cities will be pushed into the mega zone by 2030: Bangkok and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, according to United Nations estimates. In addition to flooding, these megalopolises could face water supply disruptions, dangerous heat waves (SN: 4/14/18, p. 18), increased food insecurity and more disease outbreaks.

H. THOMPSON

An ambiguous picture

On a Sunday evening in June, the promenade along Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive is packed. Families stroll eating ice cream, children chase street vendors peddling cotton candy, and friends squeeze together for selfies framed against the blue-gray waters of the Arabian Sea. Dark, roiling monsoon clouds loom over the horizon, as waves crash a meter away against the concrete barricade.

The promenade was built a century ago when India was part of the colonial British Empire. The walkway’s days may be numbered. Mumbai’s coastal waters rose at least nine centimeters during the 20th century, according to tide gauge data. Today, seawater regularly spills over the promenade during high tide.

SEASIDE SOJOURN A young man and woman enjoy a reprieve in Mumbai’s June rainfall along the city’s waterfront promenade, built a century ago when sea levels were lower. Today, high tide is enough to send water periodically over the stone walkway.
M. SINGH

It’s not clear how much farther seas will rise around Mumbai. A variety of factors, including tides, gravity and Earth’s rotation, influence local area sea rise in complex ways. And a lack of detailed data on Mumbai’s coastal geography available to scientists leaves questions on how future local water levels will affect specific areas of the city.

The state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, acknowledged this data deficit in its 2014 climate change plan. Nevertheless, the state has so far ignored a 2017 Indian Supreme Court order to release maps demarcating future flood lines.

Maharashtra’s environment secretary, Anil Diggikar, told Science News that the mapping is being done, though he did not say when the maps might be made public. But the state does recommend that rainfall and sea level trends be considered in new construction projects and public infrastructure. “This is especially important for [the] economic hub of Mumbai and surrounding districts,” he says, while also touting plans for restoring coastal stands of protective mangrove trees.

Marine scientist Mani Murali of the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India, has tried to work out Mumbai’s future flood risk using low-resolution 2011 topographic data from NASA. That work, under peer review, doesn’t tell the detailed story he knows the city needs. “But I thought something is better than nothing.”

He may have a point, with the rate of global sea rise fast accelerating — from a yearly average of 1.8 millimeters in the last century to about 3.0 millimeters per year today, according to a report in the Feb. 27 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sea rise scenarios

Global sea level rise could be kept to a lower projection range (blue) if humankind curbs greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the world is on track for a much higher level of rise (tan). 

C. CHANG

Source: IPCC 2014

And while global sea level projections up to 2050 are considered reliable, the situation beyond midcentury is less clear. Much depends on whether humankind can limit global emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping atmospheric gases. Princeton University climatologist Michael Oppenheimer is not optimistic.

“This is a battle that we are currently losing,” says Oppenheimer, a coordinating lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on oceans, cryosphere and climate change, due out in September 2019. “Sea level rise and the flood heights are only going to increase …for the foreseeable future.”

The annual monsoon, the seasonal shift in winds that brings flooding rains to Mumbai, adds an extra layer of uncertainty to projecting how much flooding will accompany sea rise, he says. The future of this South Asian weather system has been difficult to predict, thanks in part to the mysterious influence of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool. It’s Earth’s largest region of warm surface seawaters spanning the midocean region between the western Pacific and the eastern Indian oceans. That warmth partly fuels monsoon storm clouds.

Still, most studies suggest that the monsoon rains will increase. “Uncertainty is not an excuse [for inaction] at this point,” Oppenheimer says. “People need to get moving.”

Land where it shouldn’t be

Lakshmi Murali lives with her husband and son in a quiet, gated community, lush with jackfruit trees and flowering hibiscus in Mumbai’s flood-prone neighborhood of Andheri. Every June, as the rain starts falling, she unplugs the electronics in their ground floor apartment and moves her silk saris out from under the bed.

Across the city, the rains rage against the glass windows of luxury high-rises. Public transportation and street commerce come to a halt. Water pounds the tin roofs of slum shanties where about half of Mumbai’s 21.4 million people live. A sewage-tainted slurry burbles out of the city’s outdated and often-clogged drainage system, backing up into rivers and creeks that then overflow into homes and businesses.

Last year was particularly bad: In 24 hours, about 33 centimeters of rain fell. “You had to see it to believe it,” says Murali, a 54-year-old lawyer who is not related to the marine researcher of the same name. Her building’s plumbing system failed, and the toilets overflowed. Residents turned off their power for fear of getting electrocuted. As water rose inside their homes, Murali and a few neighbors used an iron rod to smash a hole through the wall surrounding their backyard to let the water flow out.

“Today, we are young, and we say, ‘Yeah, it’s OK,’ ” Murali says. Even as such flooding worsens, she has what some might call misplaced faith that things will work out. “The state will work on building enough infrastructure to keep the city alive and will not allow the city to drown. Man will work against what nature is proposing to do.”

Mumbai’s current predicament is partly due to the power of engineering over nature. Large parts of the city are built on land that, 300 years ago, was mostly underwater. When the Portuguese settled the region in the 16th century, they maintained Mumbai as a sleepy collection of coastal islands. But the British, who took over in 1661, reimagined Mumbai as a contiguous landmass and created a peninsula by filling in land gaps to connect the islands even in the wet season.

British engineering

Much of Mumbai is built atop landfill (black) that connects several islands (green) in the middle of Bombay Harbor. Those passages once allowed water to flow through the system at high tide and during monsoon rains. 

C. CHANG

Source: T. Riding/J. Hist. Geography 2018

“So many of these megacities are built on land that is only artificially higher than sea level, in places where landfilling took place,” says Washington D.C.–based Susmita Dasgupta, the lead environmental economist for the World Bank’s Development Research Group.

Dasgupta was involved in the World Bank’s first report in 2007 on how sea level rise might affect national economies. The aim was to trigger discussion and preparation for a possible future economic catastrophe. She and her team offered guarded impact estimates based on hypothetical scenarios of between one and five meters of global sea level rise, using satellite images of coastal outlines and local elevations.

In estimating potential economic losses, the team considered an affected area’s population multiplied by the country’s gross domestic product per capita, but not infrastructure or property assets. That report projected that one meter of sea rise would cost the world 1.3 percent of the global economy. Applied to the forecast global GDP for 2018, that comes to about $1.3 trillion, not far from the estimates by Hallegatte’s team.

“But we wanted to raise the issue,” Dasgupta says. She faced a wave of hostility and derision for the effort. “Even bank colleagues were unhappy about it, saying we were being alarmist and that this kind of research was premature.” Eleven years later, no one doubts the sea is rising.

CITY SOAKED Monsoon rain pounds a busy intersection in downtown Mumbai in July. The city’s chronic flooding is often exacerbated by debris-clogged storm drains.
M. SINGH

Juggling the numbers

Amid the confusing tumble of scientific studies on how climate change might raise flood risks, some scientists have built online visual apps to help the public understand what’s at stake.

One tool, by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows past global sea level trends based on tide gauges. But the app does not give projections. And it relies on sometimes patchy data. For example, there are no readings for Mumbai’s water levels from 1994 to 2005 or after 2010. The Maharashtra government says local sea levels are rising 1.2 millimeters a year, based on those incomplete data.

In 2017, a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or JPL, launched an app to demonstrate how melting ice sheets would affect 293 major port cities across the globe. The scientists measured the melt using NASA’s GRACE satellites, which detect gravity changes from the ice loss. To boost accuracy, the team recently added a component to the app that accounts for the fact that water expands as it warms.

Still, true sea level rise projections involve complex computer modeling of overlapping systems. The JPL app doesn’t do that. “So it’s risky” to put too much stock in the numbers it spits out, says JPL sea level and ice supervisor Eric Larour. “But the real risk is that people underestimate that this is going to get worse.”

For Mumbai, the JPL app foresees at least another 2.9-centimeter rise in coastal water in 10 years — and 14.4 centimeters in the next 50 years.

Those estimates could soon be revised upward. Larour’s team plans one more update to include researchpublished in the June 13 Nature showing that Antarctic ice sheets are melting three times as fast as they were 25 years ago (SN: 6/7/18, p. 6). That much melting, Larour says, is “a big, big deal.”

The JPL team hopes to have a single, detailed modeling app for the world within two years, using NASA’s high-resolution satellite images of water levels and of land gradients, “so that people can use it in active mitigation policy,” Larour says. “A lot of areas at risk in South Asia — India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka — and across Asia don’t have the information to do this.”

Economic gains lost

It’s not easy to find a coastal megacity taking decisive and effective action against future flood risks. Bangladesh has long built coastal sea walls of stacked mud, which may help prevent ocean storm surges from cascading inland to Dhaka. Fast-sinking Jakarta is working on its own giant sea wall as well. But walls won’t help Mumbai; they would prevent rain-driven freshwater floods from draining out after the monsoon.

STAYING ABOVE WATER A father tries to keep his children above water during flooding last February in the sinking megacity of Jakarta, Indonesia.
ARES JONEKSON/SHUTTERSTOCK

Massive structural engineering is not the answer. Many scientists suggest that cities lighten their burden on the land by maintaining natural coastlines, protecting sand dunes and preserving forests or even growing more of them. At the least, cities should refrain from making development decisions that will make things worse, such as paving over water-absorbent soils or building on natural floodplains. Governments can also improve storm drains, offer voluntary relocation packages or even consider introducing ferries rather than trying to raise or maintain existing roads.

“We need to evolve to a situation where we’re more congruent with nature, rather than fighting it,” says urban planning expert Amrita Daniere of the University of Toronto, codirector of the Urban Climate Resilience in South East Asia Partnership. The group is aiding flood-preparation efforts in so-called second-tier cities, each still home to millions of people. “It’s too difficult to influence policy and practice in a megacity,” she says.

There are cities like Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, that may be just too vulnerable. Built atop an estuary feeding into the Gulf of Thailand, the city — also sinking — is on track to go mega by 2030. “It wouldn’t shock me if they had to move the capital in 20 years,” Daniere says.

Why sea level rise varies from place to place

Read more about how the impact of global sea level rise varies regionally.

ALFAPROXIMA/ISTOCKPHOTO

Cities that don’t own up to their vulnerability risk squandering economic gains made in the last few decades, economists say. Some cities could face a financial reckoning even before flooding worsens. The mere notion of increasing risk is enough to spook investors.

“That could have a domino effect on other cities, with bigger consequences for the global financial system,” says Gregory Unruh, an expert in sustainable business strategy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Yet modeling economic consequences is daunting, he says. These trends “tend to be based more on perceptions, on understanding bubbles and behavioral economics.”

Pressure is mounting for cities to disclose climate risks. Credit rating agencies including Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have begun including climate change impacts in their assessments. Last year, the Financial Stability Board of the Group of Twenty international forum urged insurers, banks and institutional investors to release climate-related financial risk disclosures.

Still, “there’s not much happening,” says Richard Hewston, a climate change analyst at Verisk Maplecroft in Bath, England, which advises on the risks of doing business around the world. “Sea rise is a gradual threat,” even though it can worsen events like tropical cyclones, Hewston says. So it’s difficult for people to use sea level rise as a reason to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure to prevent disaster.

Mumbai’s flood risk makes the city a “high risk” place for climate change vulnerability — the second-most worrying category after “extreme risk,” according to Verisk Maplecroft’s 2018 hazard index. Among the world’s 31 megacities, Mumbai ranks as the ninth riskiest, based on about 50 factors ranging from preparedness to exposure to climate shocks like heat waves, drought, hurricanes and flooding. Mumbai’s high population density, high poverty rates and poor sewage and drainage systems “heighten the risk posed by climate-related events like flooding,” the company says.

WATER EVERYWHERE July rains and high tide send seawater up to the steps to Saif’s soda shop. In 2005, floods reached high enough to fill the shop on Juhu Beach, sticking Saif with $57,000 in damages.
M. SINGH

Verisk Maplecroft suggests that Mumbai build better sewage and drainage capacity, halt building on landfill and restore coastal mangrove trees, which keep the land intact with their tangle of roots and act as a natural buffer against the Arabian Sea.

There is little evidence that any of that, beyond mangrove restoration, is being done. Drainage system upgrades have been stalled for years. Limits on building on floodplains are routinely ignored. Mumbai-based environmental economist Archana Patankar worries that these are signs of official neglect.

Mumbai “is an extremely important city in terms of the economic wealth it generates,” says Patankar. The city’s economy rivals that of some developed nations in Europe. Its stock exchange is valued at around $2.2 trillion — almost twice the entire GDP of Mexico or Australia. Its Hindi-language Bollywood entertainment industry generates billions of dollars in global revenues each year. Not enough work has been done to assess how the city’s economy will be impacted, she says.

Instead, Mumbai appears focused on further developing its fragile coastline. The government is barreling ahead with plans for a 29-kilometer coastal highway, which will require ripping out patches of protective mangrove trees. Construction cranes punctuate the shoreline as new high-rises go up every year.

Property developers are aware of sea level rise, but they’re in the business to sell. “No developer in Mumbai does any kind of risk analysis on how sea level and climate change is going to factor into their risks,” says Rohitashwa Poddar, managing director of local developer Poddar Housing and Development. Though his company aims to build future-proof homes by placing them on stilts or surrounding them with water-absorbing gardens, few of Poddar’s customers ask about flood risk.

“People should know if they’re buying property in high-risk areas,” adds Stalin Dayanand, director of Vanashakti, the local environmental group that argued in the Indian Supreme Court for the release of the state’s forecast maps showing “hazard lines” for where the coast might be located in 100 years.

The state missed the Supreme Court’s April deadline. Meanwhile, authorities moved ahead with plans for a $409 million memorial statue of the 17th century Indian ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji to be built on landfill in the middle of Mumbai’s bay. If projections are even close to correct, that 200-meter-tall statue could be left towering over a city swamped within decades.


This article appears in the August 18, 2018 issue of Science News with the headline, "Coastal Catastrophe: Mumbai and a growing number of megacities face rising waters."

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

 

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