These past few weeks have seen a number of media outlets covering new disclosures about ice loss in both poles. The February 2019 issue of Scientific American features an article about the precarious Thwaites Glacier, one of the major outlets for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. According to studies of the glacier's underlying topography, a collapse of Thwaites could raise global sea levels by 11 feet in a span of several decades. Meanwhile in the Arctic, it turns out the rate of ice loss in Greenland has quadrupled since 2003 and may be approaching a "tipping point" (per the the New York Times). The Guardian also reported on the Greenland findings.
Jeanne, these discoveries seem to validate your intuition that we could see 20 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, and that these rises would come in pulses. Has anyone else meditated on this subject? I'm interested in knowing at what point do people in developed nations recognize rising seas as a present danger? I remember a vision posted for the early 2020s that saw lots of condemned coastal properties. Then it seems that by the 2030s whole communities would be fleeing the coast.
Coyote, thanks for starting this thread. As the GOP and DT begin dying out, these are the issues we will be facing in earnest.
I posted a youtube about prophecies I got back in the 1980's about sea level rise and the emptying out an American city. I saw in that vision a huge cliff we would have to scale that I thought was about 1000 feet high.
I had seen the cliff as a place we would have to get up to and then we'd be able to live on the plateau up there. I thought of it as a metaphor for a new paradigm we'd adopt but also I thought of it as an image of new ground we'd have to reach due to seas rising.
After posting that Youtube three weeks ago, I wondered if that the cliff I'd seen was more like 220 feet --the height that seas will rise once all the ice melts.
Once the ice melts and I believe it will eventually melt, all of the world's coastal populations will have to move to higher ground. Now I'm not God and don't know for sure how much and when the seas will rise. But my intuition has told me it would be about 20 feet by 2100. And that figure keeps staying in my mind.
The climate scientist James Hanson has influenced me. I think he has both the science and the intuition that makes him the most reliable guide.
Most of us will be long gone by 2100. But we are part of the early transition team. We are the ones who can help now to prepare future generations for these changes.
More important than whether the seas will rise to 10 or 20 feet by 2100 is that people will realize by then that it's the rate of rise that is important. They will see by then that it's not going to stop at 10 or 20 feet .
They will also know by then that the rise is exponential and that if it's 10 feet by 2100 and let's say it's doubling every 20 years, then it would be 20 feet by 2120, 40 feet by 2140 and 180 feet by 2180. That's exponential growth.
Exponential change usually seems small and unnoticeable for a long time, but once you start noticing it, it is at the verge of exploding.
So by the time seas rise to 10 or 20 feet, everyone will understand what is going to unfold. Everyone within an hour's drive of the coasts will want to move inland. They will want to be at least 220 feet above sea level and many may want to be far from the onrush of migrating people who waited too long to leave.
So we have change upon us that is hard to imagine. Social, economic, political change. 650 million people live in the world's coastal cities, many more on the coasts. Imagine a billion people needing to relocate, along with industry and changes in states. The immigration issues are also staggering.
We might want to spend time imagining the kind of world we could build that would become part of the changes that will be needed.
People will start living new lives and that will begin the migration and the new world of the future.
Others will want to stay put where they are and figure it out as it unfolds. Perhaps science will come up with solutions.
I think there are people who have already started this process.
But I've probably already gone way beyond this thread.
Jeanne, that vision of a tall cliff certainly sounds metaphorical (I'm reminded of Charles Eisenstein's Ascent of Humanity). The emptying out of cities could also be metaphorical; as the paradigms shift, the shiny metropolis of wealth and power will lose its allure and people will seek fulfillment elsewhere. Lots of intentional communities and eco-villages are starting this process of transition (check out Tamera in Portugal).
Back to the subject of sea level rise: even with exponential rates, where rises would be relatively small in the next few decades, lots of havoc can be wreaked on America's barrier islands and sinking metropolises of Houston, New Orleans, and Miami (the land beneath these cities is indeed subsiding due to aquifer depletion and offshore oil drilling). If the tideline were to rise by six inches in the next decade, that, combined with stronger tropical storms, would be enough to sink our most fragile coastal settlements. On the US east coast, there's also the added element of the weakening Gulf Stream, which will allow ocean water to slosh from Europe back to North America, thus amplifying sea level rise from Newfoundland to Florida.
I have a feeling that once the rug has been firmly pulled from under the GOP in the mid-2020s, we will start seeing daily news bulletins about coastal flooding and destructive storm surges the way we now receive daily updates about the Mueller investigation.
Coyote, you and I must have read the same material on the eastern seaboard problem. 🙂 The land along the eastern seaboard has been sinking since the last ice age (as ice was melting along the northern coast of the continent, it caused the continent, like a table, to rise up on one end, causing the south eastern end to sink down). So Sea Level Rise from Maine to Cape Hatteras was measured five years ago at about 3 or more times the global average sea level rise.
So three factors on the eastern seaboard which will make sea level rise worse here than the global average:
(1) Gulf Stream is weakening, causing water that was previously pulled in by the fast moving waters of the Gulf Stream to slosh back to the eastern seaboard,
(2) the continued sinking of the land from the last ice age, and
(3) rising seas due to thermal expansion and glaciers melting into the sea.
All of these factors make the U.S. eastern seaboard's sea level rise worse than the global average.
While the rest of the world could be experiencing 5 to 10 feet rise by 2100, the U.S. eastern seaboard could see much higher rise which may be why I have felt 20 feet.
James Hansen's worst case scenario was 20 feet rise globally; .
Th eUnited Nation's IPCC's (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimates are I think around 3 feet. But they've been so conservative and wrong so far-- (They didn't even include glacial melt into their estimates until recently which I think is irresponsible and bordering on criminal)-- So they don't have credibility with me at this point.
It's especially wrong because the IPCC is made up of thousands of studies by scientists who have worked their lives to get it right. But the IPCC has been a block to understanding the danger we are in. They have been too affected by political pressures.
James Hansen has been the truth sayer of scientists. His estimates have been the most dyer and also the most accurate. He says 10 feet is his mid range but he also has included 20 feet as a worst case scenario in which business continues as usual, which it has. So far climate emission are continuing to rise, not abate.
I get 20 feet average, and maybe higher along the eastern seaboard. Florida would see the global average but storms, as you said, could spoil the Florida coast line much earlier.
Jeanne, I appreciate the information you have given us of what we are facing in the future; rising seas of "20 feet average, and maybe higher along the eastern seaboard." My great grandfather bought property in Fairfield County, Connecticut in the late 1800s. It was waterfront property located on Long Island Sound. A few of his descendants still own that property.
When Hurricanes Irene & Sandy struck the waterfront along the northern shore of Long Island Sound many expensive homes were flooded severely. The local yacht club’s pier was completely destroyed and the building itself was badly damaged. The community decided to rebuild the yacht club and pier. Many owners in our area needed to make a decision for themselves; did they want to sell their homes at a very big loss or keep them? The general thought at the time was; future storms were becoming stronger and causing the flooding. Most of those wanting to keep their homes found they would need to raise them 6 or more feet to qualify for flood insurance. To raise a home 6 or more feet was going to be a very expensive proposition. Some decided to move but many of the wealthier decided to bite the bullet and raise their homes. An article published by the New Haven Register on September 7, 2013 tells the general story of Connecticut’s shoreline.
In my family’s area, due to global warming and the prospect of rising tides it may be a much worse problem than originally thought. The roads are the same level as the house foundations, making dangerous flooding with no escape during violent storms and roadways underwater in the future. Houses on stilts probably will not be a saving grace, even in the near future.
There is an article in Popular Mechanics from 3 days ago called "NASA Found a Giant Underground Cavern in Antarctica Almost the Size of Manhattan" (sorry i couldn't link to it for some reason), that explains how we could see a very rapid 2 foot worldwide sea level rise, which could then be followed by an additional 8 foot rise shortly thereafter.
Thanks for the heads up, Unk P. I found the article online here, and it turns out the cavern is in the Thwaites Glaciers; the one discussed in the latest issue of Scientific American (not online yet). Scientific American explains how the leading edge of Thwaites is underlain by an oceanic trench in addition to solid bedrock, so the cavern discovered by NASA may have formed due to contact with warmer water (as opposed to colder bedrock).
@NWDoug: I grew up in the Fairfield County town of Darien, and the situation you describe sounds just like what happened there after Irene and Sandy. You're right, raised foundations are not a saving grace; even if the main living areas of your house avoid flooding, who wants to live in a place where roads, lawns, service establishments, and neighbors without the means to raise their homes are constantly being swamped? Neither do I.
"I saw in that vision a huge cliff we would have to scale that I thought was about 1000 feet high."
Jeanne, I saw this article yesterday so I thought I should post the URL.
Glad to meet you too, NWDoug. I had a hunch you were referring to the Norton Bay Yacht Club. I graduated from college a few months ago, so am living temporarily with my parents in Darien, but have no plans on staying long-term in a high-risk coastal zone; I might be moving to central Massachusetts as early as April, so I can cross 'chronic storm surges' off the list of potential threats I need to plan for.