Wednesday, December 16, 2015

From the Arctic to Miami Beach: Why They Call It Global

We're all connected by cause and consequence.  Some of the consequences will keep coming, due to forces set in motion by the heating caused by greenhouse gases emitted even a generation ago.

The Washington Post:

"For a second straight year, the Arctic is warming faster than any other place in the world...Since the turn of the last century...the Arctic’s air temperature has increased by more than 5 degrees due to global warming. Warmer air and sea temperatures melt ice that in turn expands oceans and causes sea-level rise, which scientists say presents a danger to cities along the entire Atlantic coast, from Miami to Washington to Boston. Walrus and other arctic mammals that give birth on ice sheets are struggling with the change, and fish such as cod and Greenland halibut are swimming north from fishermen and animals that feed on them in pursuit of colder waters."

Five degrees may not sound like much, but this does:

In the Arctic, the age of ice generally defines the region’s health. Older ice is thicker, more resilient and resistant to atmospheric changes, and better at supporting mammals. Younger ice is thin and vulnerable to collapse.

Yet in nearly all Arctic regions, sea ice is decreasing, the report said. In 1985, 85 percent of the region’s ice qualified as old. In March, that fell to 30 percent. “This is the first year that first-year ice dominated the ice cover,” it notes. “Sea ice cover has transformed from a strong, thick pack in the 1980s to a more fragile, thin and younger pack in recent years.”

The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the global average.  Areas of the oceans are also heating faster, as are the world's lakes--including North America's largest, Lake Superior (as seen in the photo above, from the aforelinked Star Tribune.)

Expanding warm water is already upping the sea level and noticeably flooding Miami Beach pretty regularly.  As the Arctic is heating faster, Miami Beach is flooding faster.  It may only be another generation before it--and other parts of Florida, like the Keys (sorry, Mike--enjoy it while you can) are under water.

So it's important to face climate crisis realities now so that we can address the causes and keep the damage to a minimum.  But it is also important to address the effects, long enough in advance to do it right.  Kolbert's piece suggests Miami is going to be a test case, big time.

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