Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dios mío! El cambio climático!

"My God! The Climate Change!," exclaimed a Shorecrest (Miami) resident in Spanish to Ms. Nicole Hernandez Hammer with the Union of Concerned Scientists one day this past October, about a month past the blood Supermoon in September. That day, like on other days with high-tide inundations before it, the water was coming out of the storm drains and into the street -- even out of the ground and onto the front lawns of people's houses,  I have a friend in Oakland Park who used to live in Shorecrest -- NE 84th Street to be exact. And now the Miami metropolitan area, in fact the whole of South Florida, will have to be abandoned in about two decades due to sea-level rise. In fact, there may be divestment in Shorecrest already -- there is a vacant lot at the corner of NE 79th Street and 10th Avenue, where a multifamily or commercial building once stood.

At the same time, Florida Governor Rick Scott denies there is any climate change happening and has even instructed the engineers, researchers and scientists under the state's employ or contract to not mention the term "climate change" or even sea level rise, but instead, if they must mention anything of the sort, couch them in more innocuous terms like "nusiance flooding" for tidal inundations from sea-level rise. You can't make this stuff up! When such flooding occurs, the irony, as Al Gore said at the time, "is just excruciatingly painful."

And you can't build embankments in Miami to keep out the sea... all the bedrock is porous limestone!

The Siege of Miami

Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker.  
The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation. Knowing the tides would be high around the time of the “super blood moon,” in late September, I arranged to meet up with Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami’s geological-sciences department. Wanless, who is seventy-three, has spent nearly half a century studying how South Florida came into being. From this, he’s concluded that much of the region may have less than half a century more to go. 
We had breakfast at a greasy spoon not far from Wanless’s office, then set off across the MacArthur Causeway. (Out-of-towners often assume that Miami Beach is part of Miami, but it’s situated on a separate island, a few miles off the coast.) It was a hot, breathless day, with a brilliant blue sky. Wanless turned onto a side street, and soon we were confronting a pond-sized puddle. Water gushed down the road and into an underground garage. We stopped in front of a four-story apartment building, which was surrounded by a groomed lawn. Water seemed to be bubbling out of the turf. Wanless took off his shoes and socks and pulled on a pair of polypropylene booties. As he stepped out of the car, a woman rushed over. She asked if he worked for the city. He said he did not, an answer that seemed to disappoint but not deter her. She gestured at a palm tree that was sticking out of the drowned grass.

“Look at our yard, at the landscaping,” she said. “That palm tree was super-expensive.” She went on, “It’s crazy—this is saltwater.” 
“Welcome to rising sea levels,” Wanless told her. 
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. According to Wanless, all these projections are probably low. In his office, Wanless keeps a jar of meltwater he collected from the Greenland ice sheet. He likes to point out that there is plenty more where that came from. 
“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.

I went to the University of Miami back in the day. And about two decades from now -- it is laible to look like this: six feet of sea level rise flooding a considerable amount of land, with a lot of campus buildings having "wet feet." A lot of Miami-Dade County -- not to mention Broward -- will be a lot worse off, requiring complete evacuations and wholesale abandonments of all but the highest areas.

A lot of this "nusiance flooding" is being caused by the backing-up of the Gulf Stream due to meltwater pulses from Greenland. The Sea Level in Miami is rising at an inch a year due to this.  But Miami is not the only place that's getting flooded -- strong storms caused by the temperature gradient between the warm middle North Atlantic and the cold waters around Greenland are pummelling the UK.

Floods of a biblical proportion leave cities, towns and villages under water

Robin McKie The Guardian
It was the day the floodwaters inexorably advanced across the Pennines, leaving much of the north of England sodden and beleaguered. From Greater Manchester in the north-west to parts of North Yorkshire some 50 miles to the east, Boxing Day 2015 will be remembered as the day the rains came. 
In Todmorden, in West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley, Rebecca Marshall was last night facing the grim prospect of having to abandon her home as the floodwaters slowly rose around her house. The incessant rains had left the little town cut off after all the roads in and out were flooded. 
By late afternoon the waters were “inches” from the top of the local defence wall and Marshall was stuck inside her home without electricity. Then floodwaters started to rise through her floorboards. “At the moment in our house it’s ankle-deep,” she said. 
“There’s about three feet of water outside our door. With no electricity we will have to move out. However, I don’t think we can get out of the town. All the roads in and out of Todmorden have been closed. Fortunately we have had friends and family turn up from all over the place offering to help.”

It got so bad in the city of York, that the authorities had to raise flood barriers.

York's Fight Against Flooding As Barrier Raised

Thousands of homes are being evacuated in York, since the flood barrier protecting the town was lifted last night. 
The Environment Agency said it was forced to lift the Foss flood barrier after water entered the building, putting pumps in danger of failing due to electrical problems. 
If the barrier became stuck in the 'down' position, it would not have been able to discharge water into the River Ouse. 
So the agency made the decision to lift it, warning residents in the city centre to move valuables to upper floors and prepare to leave their homes.

The flooding is so bad in Midland and Northern England, that bridges could collapse, taking the structures built thereon (it's a European habit before the twentieth century) with them. And there's a "hurricane" still to come.

And the Mississippi River will reach flood stage at New Orleans around Martin Luther King Day due to all the recent rains in the Great Plains and the Midwest and Mid-South. Let's hope the levees hold.

These events, and others like them, shows that adapting to climate change is not going to merely cost chump change. A lot or resources, including energy resources, will have to go into this. Has anyone figured that peak oil, and peak coal and gas, may restrict the availability of these resources?

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