Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Oceans are Coming

By Keith Farnish and Dmitry Orlov

This article is the first part of a three-part series, which considers the effect of global warming on ocean level rise, and examines life with constantly advancing seas from two perspectives: that of the landlubber and that of the seafarer.

[Update, November 2009: The Copenhagen Diagnosis, the heavily peer-reviewed interim update to the IPCC AR4, further validates the sea-level rise assumptions we used in this article: "By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4; for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as ~ 2 meters sea level rise by 2100. Sea level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperatures have been stabilized, and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries."]

Part I: The Global Mistake

In September 2009 the latest global temperature rise projections released by the Hadley Centre, part of the British Meteorological Office indicated an average rise of 4 degrees Celsius (that’s a balmy 7.2°F) by 2055 given a business as usual scenario. Some places will be a bit more stable, but the places that particularly matter – the ice caps, the methane-rich permafrosts in northern Canada and Siberia, and the Amazon rainforest – will be melting, off-gassing, and burning, respectively. The report offers some detail on what that would feel like:

In a 4°C world, climate change, deforestation and fires spreading from degraded land into pristine forest will conspire to destroy over 83 per cent of the Amazon rainforest by 2100... in a 4°C world there will be a mix of extremely wet monsoon seasons and extremely dry ones, making it hard for farmers to plan what to grow. Worse, the fine aerosol particles released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels could put a complete stop to the monsoon rains in central southern China and northern India... the people most vulnerable to a 4°C rise are also least able to escape it. At 4°C, the poor will struggle to survive, let alone escape.

And what of that lodestone, global sea level? This happens to be a very interesting question, because ocean levels are set to rise dramatically. According to UCLA scientists, the last time carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are today was 15 million years ago. At that time, the sea level was between 20 and 36 metres higher (75 to 120 feet), there was no permanent ice cap in the arctic, and very little ice in Antarctica or Greenland. That is where we are headed. The only remaining question is, How long will it take us to get there?

The authors of the Hadley Centre report predict a rise of just 1.4 metres by 2100. The IPCC in their 2007 4th Assessment Report predicted something like half a metre by 2100 based on a combination of the fattening of the oceanic envelope caused by thermal expansion and the increased runoff from glaciers and minor ice sheets. None of this sounds particularly catastrophic just yet, but then it turns out that these predictions are not based on anything particularly relevant: the British Antarctic Survey, in 2008, made it clear that the IPCC had not included the source of nearly 100% of the world’s potential ice melt – the major ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland – simply because they had little idea of how the ice caps would behave in a heating world:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the issue by suggesting that current knowledge is inadequate to estimate confidently the contribution that ice sheets might make to sea-level rise in coming centuries. While technology makes sea-level rise easier to observe, and we can predict some contributions to future sea-level rise with increasing certainty, we cannot yet fully predict the ice sheets’ contribution. There is thus a risk that sea-level rise could be higher than the (incomplete) estimates provided by the IPCC.

Thus, the most peer-reviewed piece of climate science ever written turns out to be completely inadequate when it comes to estimating the level of disruption associated with a very important aspect of climate change: the rising seas. If Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s land ice (sea ice, like that in the Arctic, does not directly cause the oceans to rise when it melts) and Greenland contains most of the rest, then what’s going to happen when they start to melt with a vengeance, and when are they going to start melting? Official science is mute on the subject.

What Do We Know?

There are some things that we do know. Based on the volume of ice lying upon the landmass of Greenland, it is quite possible to estimate how far the oceans would rise, should all of it melt away: something in the region of 7.2 metres. That may not seem like a lot, but, as you will see in Part 2 of this series, it will be enough to have devastating consequences for the lower lying parts of the world, which, not coincidentally, are the locations of some of the world’s largest cities. (In fact, there is something you can do to make reading this article more exciting: find out how high above sea level you live, and, as you read along, keep checking to see if your head is still above water.)

Rapid, dramatic change beggars the imagination. The Greenland Ice Sheet is massive, having formed during the first cycle of the most recent major glacial period, and our instinct tells us that it should remain stable in all but the most extreme conditions. It is disconcerting to know that the onset of an ice age can take as little as two decades, implying that an equally sudden melt cannot be ruled out. It is also disconcerting to know that the conditions required for a sudden melt are pretty much guaranteed to occur, and that, in fact, the ice sheet is already melting. We don't have to imagine it. All we have to do is observe:

For the first time since measurements were started [in 2002], the extremely warm summer of 2007 saw a decrease in the ice mass at high altitudes (above 2,000 metres). It also became clear that the ice loss is advancing towards the North of Greenland, particularly on the west coast. The areas around Greenland, particularly Iceland, Spitsbergen and the northern islands of Canada, seem to be particularly badly affected.

This analysis, by the team controlling the GRACE satellite system, is essentially saying that conditions like those in 2007 are able to counteract the damping effect of even the thickest parts of Greenland’s ice sheet. So, when will all the ice melt? There are two schools of thought, but they basically come down to when the temperature of Greenland increases by either 4°C or 8°C above the mean global average of the last 100 years.
Four degrees... haven’t we seen that first figure before? In fact, a global rise of 4 degrees corresponds to a considerably larger rise of Arctic temperatures: conventionally this is between 5 and 6 degrees, but if you look at the 2009 Hadley Centre forecasts, a global rise of 4 degrees actually corresponds to an 8 degree rise across much of Greenland. Pick any number you like, but Greenland is melting.


We can take some comfort in the thought that the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would take at least 100 years once it reached that temperature. But it accounts for just 10% of the global ice volume, the other 90% being locked away in the seemingly impermeable heart of Antarctica. Or not: the East Antarctic ice sheet (that’s the big blob that surrounds the South Pole just off-centre) seems to be quite stable, and should remain that way for the next few centuries, but West Antarctica (the peninsula that reaches north toward South America) is not stable at all. The WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) is largely below sea level, having over several million years pushed down and scoured out the bedrock beneath it, but because of its huge area, the part of it that is above water still manages to comprise around 10% of the total Antarctic ice volume. If this were to melt then the oceans would rise by another 5 metres, in addition to the thermal expansion of 1.4 metres, plus whatever has been sloughed off the Greenland ice sheet, giving us 13.6 metres, or close to 45 feet. (Is your head still above water? Please check again now.)

Icebergs and glaciers have been calving from West Antarctica at an accelerating rate over the last decade, which groups such as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) have been carefully monitoring, with increasing alarm. In 2002, to most glaciologists’ horror, the entire Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated. It consisted largely of floating ice, and so despite the immense size of the shelf, this development had no effect on sea levels. But it did presage a new era of rapid ice movement, never before recorded in the modern era. It also had another, even more sinister side-effect on West Antarctica:

An ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula to Charcot Island has disintegrated. The event continues a series of breakups that began in March 2008 on the ice shelf, and highlights the effect that climate change is having on the region. Images from the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on the Terra and Aqua satellites showed the shattering of the ice bridge between March 31, 2009 and April 6, 2009. The loss of the ice bridge, which was bracing the remaining portions of the Wilkins ice shelf, will now allow a mass of broken ice and icebergs to drift into the Southern Ocean.

The Wilkins is following a pattern of instability and rapid collapse that many Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves have experienced in recent years. Scientists think that the dramatic loss of these ice shelves, which have existed for hundreds to thousands of years, is an important sign of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere. The loss of an ice shelf can also allow the glaciers that feed into it to start flowing ice into the ocean at an accelerated rate, contributing to a rise in global sea levels.

The last phrase is the most important one; at the moment there is no major concern about the status of most of the WAIS, and the temperature seems to be holding, but if the ice shelves are no longer able to hold back the progress of the glaciers, then they will accelerate towards the sea, themselves causing further instability within the WAIS. Going back to the Hadley Centre article again, it was thought that Greenland was invulnerable to change not so many years ago, but the map produced by the Centre shows warming of between 4 and 10 degrees by 2055. This would still keep the vast majority of Antarctica well below freezing; but ice under extreme pressure can exhibit unusual patterns of behaviour, including increasing internal temperature and self-lubrication. This is what often happens at the bases of deep glaciers, allowing them to slide even when temperatures are well below freezing. The results may continue to confound and horrify glaciologists for years to come while sending the rest of us scampering for higher ground.

A Storm Surge of Forecasts

2001 was the first year we were able to say with any scientific certainty what was likely to happen to global sea level. It seems strange that it should take so long to provide forecasts, but until a consensus on global temperature rise had been achieved, via the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR), then the (supposedly) largest element of the sea level rise equation – the aforementioned thermal expansion – could not be included.

So what did the IPCC say back in 2001? If you read their report, you will discover that of the absolute maximum 0.5 metre rise by 2090, predicted by this august group of scientists, a whopping 74% was due to thermal expansion, with 11cm (22%) dependent on glacier and ice cap melting (mountaintops, essentially), and a miserly 2cm attributable to the possible melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. But then in this report the absolute worst case “business as usual” model shows a 2°C rise by 2050, which we now know to have been a bit shy of the mark.

Then, in 2007, the landmark 4th Assessment Report raised the bar in both possible temperature rise (from 5.6°C to 6.4°C by 2100) and global sea level rise, to... wait for it... 0.57 metres! Of this new figure, which hardly seems to reflect the immense strides made in feedback loop analysis in the intervening six years, 38 cm or 67% of the rise is attributable to thermal expansion. With this in mind, it would pay to reflect on the types of changes described in this essay, and consider what the IPCC would have predicted had ice sheet melt been included in the final version.

Forward to 2009, and two papers jump out. The first, from the relatively conservative Dr Mark Siddall at the University of Bristol is now talking about a possible rise of 0.82 metres by the end of this century, which is based on the IPCC 4AR maximum temperature of 6.4°C. The second paper, by Grinsted, Moore and Jevrejeva, again based on the IPCC maximum, suggests that a 1.3 metre rise by 2100 is not out of the question. How much of this can be attributed to Greenland and Antarctica is uncertain, but predicting the future based on thermal expansion plus a paleological record of a few thousand years, during which both ice sheets remained fully intact and temperatures never rose above 1.5°C seems a pretty poor basis upon which to predict future tipping points!

If we are to take the two papers at face value and strike a mean of 1.06 metres, by overlaying the latest predictions of temperature rise – which are double the IPCC predictions – we get at least 2 metres globally. That’s just thermal expansion plus a few hundred glaciers and mountaintop ice caps. Now consider what happens when you include the following:
  • Tipping point effects above 8°C in Greenland
  • Unknown effects of similar temperature increases on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
  • Increases in storm surge height and storm intensity caused by a rise in oceanic and atmospheric energy levels due to temperature rise
  • Increases in inland flooding due to convectional storms upon hardpan (parched clay soils) and more energetic rainstorms from temperature increases
The last two are the inevitable effects of increasing atmospheric energy due to higher temperatures, and are critical because most coastal flooding is the result of either coastal storm surges and high winds, inland flooding inundating river catchments, or a combination of the two. The flooding of eastern England and the Netherlands in 1953, which resulted in the deaths of around 2,500 people, was a combination of a low pressure storm surge, an intense North Sea storm and a high spring tide. Without any inference of global sea level rise, the water rose along the North Sea coast by 4.5 metres.

Via Denmark and the German curve, the storm got closer to the Dutch coast. On the night of the 31st of January, the storm over the North Sea got even stronger, reaching gales of force 11. The Dutch coast was being hit with force 10 winds. The storm continued, and in the south-western Netherlands, wind speeds of force 9 were measured for 20 consecutive hours. The power of the storm drove the water so high that the water was unable to retreat away sufficiently. There was no ebb tide.

Shortly after midnight, the maximum whip up of the water was measured - the wind drove the water up to 3.1 metres. Three hours later, there was a spring tide. Through the combination of this spring tide, and the huge whipping up of the water, at 3hr24, the highest recorded water level was reached - 4.55 metres above NAP (Normal Amsterdam Water Level).

The dikes were not designed to hold such high water levels, and [at] around 3 o’clock that night, the first dikes broke through...

* * *
And so there we have it. A few degrees warmer, a few metres higher, and a couple of decades later, and there we will be, floating about, holding on to other things that float, perching in tree limbs and on rooftops, and hoping to be rescued. We know where we are going to end up eventually: at least 20 metres (65 feet) higher. The one thing we still do not know is how long it will take for us to get there.

We could keep waiting for the scientific community to settle on a consensus forecast, but this may take so long that it will have to be delivered through a snorkel. However, we can already observe that the doubling period of scientific climate forecasts is uncomfortably short, and, to provide for a margin of safety, we should at least double the latest estimates. If the latest forecast is for 2 metres this century, let us assume that we will see at least 4, and plan accordingly.

But do the exact forecasts even matter? We already know enough to say that there is a high probability that ocean levels will rise, significantly, within the lifetimes of most of the people alive today, disrupting the patterns of daily life for much of the world's population, which tends to be clustered along the coastlines and the navigable waterways. We also know that ocean levels will continue to rise far into the future, until they are 20 to 36 metres higher than they are today. We know that continuous coastal erosion and salt water inundation, coastal flooding and displacement of coastal populations, which number in the billions, toward higher ground, will be normal and expected. We also know that there is a high chance these changes will occur based on present carbon dioxide levels, regardless of what is being currently proposed by the governments of the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, what we do not know is perhaps most important of all if you are in the middle of all this. We have not considered what ways of inhabiting the changing coastal landscape will remain viable. How will we have to adapt if any of us are to avoid being swept up in a continuous, endless surge of refugees feeling for higher ground, abandoning all they own and all they know? These are the questions that the next two parts of this series of articles will examine.

Keith Farnish is author of "Time's Up! An Uncivilized Solution To A Global Crisis" ( and also writes The Earth Blog and The Unsuitablog. He enjoys being a husband and dad, walking around and growing things.


Ståle said...

Flood level map - a bit crude, but it allows you to check how high above (current) sea level you live:

Anonymous said...

This just in:
The government of the Maldives is set to hold a cabinet meeting six metres underwater to highlight the threat of global warming.

Jan Lundberg said...

One of the most relevant positive feedback loops regarding sea level rise is the engulfing and killing of vegetation on land by the unwelcome salt water. The affected vegetation becomes a carbon-emissions source which in turn causes more global warming and thus additional sea level rise, inundating more land and killing more plants and trees that used to be out of the harmful ocean's way. Then that vegetation becomes a source of more carbon for global warming and sea level rise. This causes even greater inundation of land areas and the vegetation on them. What happens then is more carbon emissions from the dead plant material, adding to global temperature rise. In turn... Oh, thank Goddess Gaia I finally fell off that merry-go-round. There was a play in the '60s, "Stop the World I Want to Get Off."
Jan Lundberg, at sea level

Keith Farnish said...

Hi Anon, I wonder if the Maldives government are actually changing their tune, or if they are still frantically encouraging tourists to fly there on holiday, just checking...nope, still after the tourist dollar.

Stale, yes it's a very useful resource which I've used before. Crude in that it only looks at height above sea level, but still enlightening.


Dmitry Orlov said...

I came home today to a crop of comments from global warming deniers, believers in some sort of apocalypse, etc., all rejected. So disappointing. People who can't understand the science and can't observe for themselves shouldn't waste their time here.

Anonymous said...

This problem is insoluble, it's something that is happening and will happen. I think the deniers have trouble with the concept of insolubility. By the way, this was pointed out by Mencken eighty years ago. If you point out a problem and offer no solutions, it is not destructive criticism if the problem happens to be insoluble!

What is it about insolubility of certain problems that so drives people crazy? Even people who are married!

And to Keith: I am reading your book, which I find fascinating and will recommend to people.

Dmitry Orlov said...

Here's a good background reader in preparation for the next article in this series.

"The evidence that sea level has risen, is rising and will continue to rise along the coast of Maryland is so great that no informed person would suggest otherwise."

Dmitry Orlov said...

Scientists surprised by a mysterious 2-foot sea level rise in the Atlantic this summer:

"The startling rise caused only minor coastal flooding—but major head scratching among scientists."

William Thomas said...

My bet is that the most dire predictions pertaining to timing could be way off. Why? Because the big question regarding polar caps is not how fast they will melt - but how soon they will slide.

As melting glaciers self-lubricate by sending gushers of meltwater down fissures to bedrock, this ball-bearing effect is already causing their slide to the sea to accelerate drastically.

Never mind melting. Wait for the splash!

-William Thomas

Dmitry Orlov said...

Interesting point, William. Speed of certain glaciers has been observed to double in recent years. Now, is glacier velocity a function of temperature, or is it glacier acceleration. Because if it is the latter, then it will keep doubling, until some other limit is reached, or the glacier is gone.

Anonymous said...

bravo ; & thanks keith & kollapsnik for u'r research. too bad about the deniers; but no surprise.

i worked at a coal fired electric plant. the rashes - i thought mostly razor burn- got bad; then a cohort said "sulfuric acid.. fly ash + sweat". i've known since we were doing very bad things.

i have been hoping for folks i trust to present some conclusions from the work being done. thanks again.

here's a post i recently made re very odd recent weather;
here in midwest the weather has been the strangest i ever remember. not that dramatically so but we've hardly had a dry spell- all summer, & as airdale says wet, wet, wet fall. yet even though we had all this soaking type rain my pond didn't fill completely as it requires a 'washer'- we've had 3 or 4/yr. the last few yrs.
edit add; maybe the soakers are filling underground aquifers.

this past spring wheat around here was in trouble due to wet conditions; & now the corn, & soybeans.....

as i said;oddest spring/summer/fall weather i remember.

Reply | Reply in new windo

Tenney Naumer said...

Excellent article! We could use you over at the New York Times' Dot Earth blog to combat the fossil-fuel-industry-paid denialists commenting with their junk science nonsense. A group of us has been fighting them since November 2007 on that blog.

Andrew Butt said...

I am land-locked in Alberta, Canada - although millions of years ago it was an inland ocean. The result were the Devonian formations where much of the oil and gas used to fuel industrial civilization is produced from.

On a side-note, with apologies to my sea-faring friends, I've noted a distinct reduction in the land locked glaciers to the west of me in the Rockies. Actually, I am deeply saddened to see how the Columbia Icefields has shrank significantly in my lifetime! Sadness doesn't really describe the depth of emotion.

The glacier system in the Rockies is the source for nearly all the water in Alberta. Much of the water table (from the last ice age) has been pulled down significantly through agriculture.

Dmitry - thanks for the blog editing, I am waery of hearing from the deniers, especially when I see the changes with mine own eyes.

Keith - I'd love to read your book. But I am reluctant to do so. As a father, I want to help my children. But given where things are heading .... any words of encouragement would be appreciated.

Dmitry Orlov said...

From my correspondence:

The fact that so little thinking seems to have been applied to these less-obvious consequences of sea-level rise hits a nerve for me. With the exception of you guys, Jim Kunstler and a few others, nobody seems to be applying more than a Hollywood screenwriter's worth of vision to the real-world complexities of the Big Changes that are a-comin'. So by and large our society's thinking about it has been fairly simplistic and, frankly, not all that alarming.

Hell, I don't know how this is all going to unfold, but I don't think it takes a Ph.D. in .... well, wait a minute. There IS no discipline that even studies these issues, is there? Anyway, it doesn't take a Ph.D. in anything at all to foresee that the reality of coastal abandonment will be far more complex and intractible than our cushy culture can imagine.

Say at some point Manhattan's subway tunnels, underground utility tunnels and sewers have been flooded. Oops -- time for all urbane New Yorkers to cheerfully pack their bags and fly off (between the flotsam-bearing tides at JFK) to Grandma's house in Topeka where a warm apple pie and a job with a PR firm await them. That's all well and good, but do we really think they're going to take their whole civilizational footprint along with them on their backs?

So how about all these building materials, plastics, paper, inks, bacteria and molds, medical waste, paints, petrochemicals, asphalt, fuels floating out of underground storage tanks, sewage, industrial reagents and waste, witches-brews of combined chemicals (so many of which have not been environmentally tested individually, let alone in combination), radioactive materials and electronic waste, not to mention mammalian carcasses and stuff we don't even know about? Where are they all going to go as the sea pounds them and washes over them? The vast, plastic-polluted ocean gyres that have recently been documented will be a mere coming-attractions trailer for what's really on the way if plans aren't made to systematically demolish and "sterilize" populated and industrial areas before they're abandoned.

Then there are the huge, stinking tidal "cesspools" that will surely be filled and refilled with each tide. (Barf...)

Food from the sea would soon be a thing of the past. Would any but the most primitive ocean life even survive?

Keith Farnish said...

Thanks for all the observant and cerebral comments (and thanks Dmitry for filtering out all the crap).

Andrew, I don't think there's anything to scare your family in my book (apart from one swear word): I can't offer hope; I offer something far better -- the chance to shape the future in a self-determined way. I get a strange feeling that a small army of underminers is getting down to work, giving people their liberty back. Managed destruction has to be better than uncontrolled collapse ;-)



N.B. Would love to help over at the NYT, but if it's anything like The Guardian then I'd give up now and go where you'll find people who want to help, not hinder.

Bilbo said...

I checked my altitude - 700 feet. My water yet. Nearby is a major port whose port facilities will be unaffected by ocean rise since the port is 600 feet above sea level. John Michael Greer has said the Rust Belt will be one of the better places to be in future, but I'm not sure he thinking of the rise of the ocean level.

I wonder how the value of ocean front property will fare in the next few years.

the Rev Jerry Gloryhole said...

Re: food from future oceans...
I recall reading somewhere that acidification will eventually render shellfish unable to form shells, krill among them. Jellyfish will abound, but I can't think of any recipes for them.
Which brings me to an idea I'm willing to share:
a post-apocalypse cookbook.
Jellyfish paella? Roast Long-Pig? There ought to be many recipes for Long Pig in it, considering.
Cooking the cooks!

Anonymous said...

Very sobering; many thanks.

Ståle said...

Re: post-apocalypse cookbook - there is always Albert Bates' "Post-petroleum survival guide and cookbook" (although this is now three years old and Mr. Bates' outlook on the state of things is decidedly darker these days than the long descent scenario he paints in this book).

Anonymous said...

i don't know how common this sort of thing has been; but not in my lifetime have i heard of such.

Guy R. McPherson said...

And then there's this, which indicates extinction of humans by mid-century. All the forecasts have proven far too conservative. I doubt our species has until 2050.

Dmitry Orlov said...

I hate having to be such a nag, but if you submit a comment like this -

Blah blah blah <link to an article hidden behind a paywall>

- then I will reject it. Fair enough?

Larkin said...

Thinking about global warming and having lived in New York to the point of familiarity, I went to Google Earth and did a rough chart of what a 20ft rise in water level would do the Manhattan.

This is, of course, a satirical piece so I hope you will take it in that spirit.

There is a little bit of plausibility to this story as Manhattan Island is tucked deep into a great natural harbor fully protected from ocean waves and rough seas.

New York, New York, ever resilient New York.

Manhattan is a rock and the many of the buildings built from the turn of the last century to the present were built of rock or steel. They were built to last and in spite of the rising waters they are still standing tall. Separated from the rest of Manhattan by a twenty foot rise in the water level of New York Harbor is a cluster of skyscrapers seemingly set adrift from its mother city. A new Venice is being born. A flurry of boat traffic and nautical industry goes on from the top of government square with its half submerged government monuments out to where Nassau, Broad and Wall Street lay 20feet under water. Only thing left of Trinity Church is the steeple where it has become a gathering place for sightseers. When the waters first began to rise there was a mass exodus from lower Manhattan but a few hearty and adventurous souls stayed on to invent a new world.

Mayor Harding announced a massive causeway project that would appropriate the 12th floor of all the surviving buildings effectively joining each building with its neighbor to form a pedestrian walkways for people or small vehicles .

Currently the Brooklyn Bridge is in completely inaccessible on both sides as are large areas of Brooklyn itself. Next to it, the Manhattan Bridge is accessible from the Manhattan side but is fully submerged on the Brooklyn side. Fully accessible at Delaney Street is the Williamsburg Bridge into the more elevated parts of Brooklyn.

The Borough of Queens is almost untouched but Rikers Island Detention center is completely submerged. Crossing the 59th street bridge or taking the adjacent cable car you might look down see Roosevelt Island completely underwater.

Both the Lincoln and Holland Tunnel as are the Path trains into new Jersey are completely flooded so Jersey is now only accessible by boat or the George Washington bridge at the North end of Manhattan. Since most of the subway lines are also flooded, plans are being drawn up for a super sleek elevated tram system that would go from the Upper West side all the way down the sparkling New City in the water.

The New Venice as it is being increasingly called is attracting corporate money to exploit the lucrative possibilities of a worldwide attraction. All the big names are charting territory and to help the city to be re-born. Each problem and each difficulty offers a challenge to make a bright new future for New York.

Neva River said...

New York might be OK but I would miss St Petersburg, which was a swamp to begin with.

The North Coast said...

Two things about GW and its consequences:

1. The damage is done, and it's most likely that the people who feel it first will be the coastal cities, which are mostly at sea level or even slightly below.

2. You can stay in denial and keep on investing in places like Miami or Baltimore or Boston, but the smart money will start pulling out very soon and probably already has.

3. Between the certain loss of these cities over the next thirty years, and our inability to maintain the fuel-guzzling Colorado plumbing system and its series of monster hydro dams due to the depletion of fossil fuels, the remaining habitable areas of the U.S. will be mostly the Midwestern cities on the Great Lakes and Mississippi River that we trashed in the Post WW2 era to build suburbs, and sprawl-cities with 4 million people on the desert.

So look to invest in Memphis, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Indianapolis, and other ruined heartland cities that have hit bottom and are cheap, on major waterways and with plentiful fresh water supplies, and fertile hinterlands nearby. And most of them are at least 500' above sea level.

Chicago will become another NYC. It's sprawling suburbs will contract substantially but the city itself will become more valuable, especially outer nabes that aren't packed with 70 story buildings.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the background reader Dmitry gives us a link to early in the comments here. Really worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

i worry about, is the sea inundating the rubbish dumps and toxic waste sites.

kika said...

Some heartening news from here in Australia, as of today, 27 Oct09:-

"A federal parliamentary report has raised the possibility of banning human occupation in areas of Australia's coastline threatened by rising sea levels. The lower house environment committee has spent 18 months examining the effect the changing climate will have on coastal Australia.
The committee is calling for a new national approach to managing climate change, rising sea levels and coastal erosion in many Australian communities. The committee wants the Productivity Commission to investigate the implications of climate change for the insurance industry - it is suggested that the commission look into ways in which the Government could ban occupation or development of land, facing sea hazards.
With 80 per cent of Australia's population based in coastal areas, it is a recommendation that could have significant implications"

However, Australia is also full of deniers. At present there is a raging debate between believers and non-believers of climate change. I'm wondering if the coal/oil lobby are especially active just before the conference in Copenhagen.

Anastasia said...

@ Anonymous; "i worry about, is the sea inundating the rubbish dumps and toxic waste sites"

Yes, the article alludes to this being a consequence of rising seas.

Anastasia said...

@ kika; "A federal parliamentary report has raised the possibility of banning human occupation in areas of Australia's coastline threatened by rising sea levels."

Yes, but even if this kind of legislation was ever passed, let alone enforced past the next couple of election cycles, (which I strongly doubt), they are still basing their viewpoint on there only being an 80cm sea level rise by 2100, which as we have read in Dmitry and Keith's article, is a highly, highly optimistic assumption, if not downright delusional.

Dr. Doom said...

Leave it to Dmitry to take the romance out of global warming----

Good news and bad news--first, the good news: Peak Oil and Global Financial Collapse will end further warming effects via demand destruction and eventual loss of consumers.

The bad news: a broke and broken society will not be able to cope with even a modest strategic retreat from present continental coasts and islands.

I've long maintained that global warming is the least of our *near term* worries and have often wondered if scientist colleagues and Al Gore nobel prize laureates are just playing around with the global warming issue, because the harsh realities of rapidly approaching societal collapse are just too dark to ponder let alone accept. Non-PC topics like death itself.

I live 500 feet up on an island ridge. The main highway to town is around 20 feet on average. I see boats in my future, sailing boats with cannon. Maybe a parrot and an eye patch, too.

Larkin said...

A quote from Dr. Doom
Good news and bad news--first, the good news: Peak Oil and Global Financial Collapse will end further warming effects via demand destruction and eventual loss of consumers.

I suspect that many have overlooked the issue of momentum in a change this large. If we stopped all fossil fuel burning tomorrow morning, the change triggered may continue on for sometime. We may already have passed the no return point making reversal feudal.

Tony said...

Hi Dmitry... this is going to be way off-topic, but I wanted to let you know I borrowed your "importing oil from aliens" idea, from a while back, and used it in a presentation on Peak Oil I gave Saturday as part of the activities in my town. I modified the graphic slightly to be more relevant to my particular presentation. Thanks for the inspiration! Here's the link.

Tony said...

Dmitry, thanks for posting that link about the "mysterious" 2-foot sea level rise on the US East Coast. I find that highly alarming. I'm going to indulge in some of black humor by calling the early assertion that the rise had "nothing to do with global warming" a bit amusing. Apparently National Geographic hasn't heard that, when you flood the North Atlantic with fresh water (i.e., melting glaciers and ice caps), that causes the relative salinity of that part of the ocean to decline, making the water less dense. Less dense water sinks more slowly. And because the North Atlantic is where the Gulf Stream takes its dive into the ocean depths, this causes the Gulf Stream to slow down. Now, I don't know if the Gulf Stream slowed down, in this case, due to the chain of reasoning just described or for some other reason, but it seems too facile to conclude, prima facie, that this particular event had "nothing to do with global warming" when it very likely could have.

One of the side effects of the slowing Gulf Stream should be unseasonably cold times in northern Europe, which is warmer than it ought to be, thanks to warm water dragged north from the equator by that current.

Dmitry Orlov said...

This just in:

Greenland is melting much faster than expected