Screenshot of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website, https://www.epa.gov/climatechange, before it was deleted by the Trump administration on 28 April 2017. Graphic: EPA / archive.org

By Jessica Glenza
29 April 2017

NEW YORK (The Guardian) – The US Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump.

The announcement, made late Friday evening, left empty what was previously the “official government site” providing “comprehensive information on the issue of climate change and global warming”.

The change came a day before thousands gathered in Washington DC and other US cities to protest inaction on climate change, and hours before the symbolic 100-day mark of the Trump administration.

On Saturday, visitors to the website were greeted with a message from the new administration: “This page is being updated.”

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” said JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs.

Previously, the website housed data on greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health.

“We want to eliminate confusion,” Freire said, “by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.” [more]

EPA wipes its climate change site day before march on Washington


Screenshot of a temporary page at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website, after the climate science content was deleted on 28 April 2017 by the Trump administration. Graphic: EPA

WASHINGTON, 28 April 2017 (EPA) – EPA.gov, the website for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is undergoing changes that reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt. The process, which involves updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership, is intended to ensure that the public can use the website to understand the agency's current efforts. The changes will comply with agency ethics and legal guidance, including the use of proper archiving procedures. For instance, a screenshot of the last administration’s website will remain available from the main page.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” said J.P. Freire, Associate Administrator for Public Affairs. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”

The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of the so-called Clean Power Plan. Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed.

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Contact

Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem. press@epa.gov

EPA Kicks Off Website Updates

Book cover for 'The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy', by Peter Temin. Graphic: MIT Press

By Lynn Parramore
20 April 2017

(INET) – You’ve probably heard the news that the celebrated post-WW II beating heart of America known as the middle class has gone from “burdened,” to “squeezed” to “dying.”  But you might have heard less about what exactly is emerging in its place.

In a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, draws a portrait of the new reality in a way that is frighteningly, indelibly clear:  America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

Two roads diverged

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

The two sectors, notes Temin, have entirely distinct financial systems, residential situations, and educational opportunities. Quite different things happen when they get sick, or when they interact with the law. They move independently of each other. Only one path exists by which the citizens of the low-wage country can enter the affluent one, and that path is fraught with obstacles. Most have no way out.

The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure: our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan. But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing.

In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration - check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check. [more]

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

A shark swims off the coast of Midway Atoll on the northern edge of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. The Trump administration plans to consider reversing the designation of some marine sanctuaries. Photo: Wyland / NOAA / AP

By Nathan Rott and Merrit Kennedy
27 April 2017

(NPR) – President Trump signed an executive order Friday that aims to expand offshore drilling for oil and gas, in a move welcomed by the oil and gas industry and greeted with alarm by environmental groups.

"Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent," Trump said before signing the document. He said previous restrictions on exploration and production deprive the U.S. of "potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth."

The order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review a five-year plan in which President Obama banned drilling in parts of the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans. Zinke told reporters Thursday night that will be a long process, and a complex one, acknowledging that not all areas have oil or gas, and not all coastal communities want offshore drilling.

But Zinke said revenue from offshore leasing had dropped by $15 billion during the Obama administration, with some of that due to the dropping price of oil, "but not all of it." He added that 94 percent of the nation's outer continental shelf is currently off limits for development of any kind.

The oil and gas industry is enthusiastic about today's executive order. In a statement, Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute said expanding drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico in particular "could create thousands of jobs and provide billions of dollars in government revenue."

Along the Atlantic coast, though, more than 100 cities and towns have passed resolutions against offshore drilling. In Kure Beach, N.C., Mayor Emilie Swearingen said tourism is the second largest industry in the state. "We don't want the devastation from an oil spill," she said. "It's not whether it would happen, but when it would happen."

George Edwardson, president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, said his council may consider filing suit at some point to challenge an expansion of offshore drilling. "Most of our food comes from the ocean," he said. [more]

Trump Signs Executive Order On Offshore Drilling And Marine Sanctuaries

By Chris Mooney
19 April 2017

(The Washington Post) – Drifts of floating plastic that humans have dumped into the world’s oceans are flowing into the pristine waters of the Arctic as a result of a powerful system of currents that deposits waste in the icy seas east of Greenland and north of Scandinavia.

In 2013, as part of a seven-month circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean, scientists aboard the research vessel Tara documented a profusion of tiny pieces of plastic in the Greenland and Barents seas, where the final limb of the Gulf Stream system delivers Atlantic waters northward. The researchers dub this region the “dead end for floating plastics” after their long surf of the world’s oceans.

The researchers say this is just the beginning of the plastic migration to Arctic waters.

“It’s only been about 60 years since we started using plastic industrially, and the usage and the production has been increasing ever since,” said Carlos Duarte, one of the study’s co-authors and director of the Red Sea Research Center at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. “So, most of the plastic that we have disposed in the ocean is still now in transit to the Arctic.”

The results were published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. The study was led by Andrés Cózar of the University of Cádiz in Spain along with 11 other researchers from universities in eight nations: Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The researchers estimated that about 300 billion pieces of tiny plastic are suspended in these Arctic waters right now, although they said the amount could be higher. And they think there is even more plastic on the seafloor. [more]

The pristine Arctic has become a garbage trap for 300 billion pieces of plastic


Locations and plastic concentrations of the sites sampled. The summer extension of the polar ice cap in August 2013 is shown in white area, and the classical schematic drawing of the North Atlantic Subtropical Ocean Gyres and the Global Thermohaline Circulation poleward branch is indicated by green curves. The northern passage from Barents Sea to Kara Sea is zoomed in, with contour lines describing salinity measured at a depth of 5m. Graphic: Andres Cozar

By Hayley Dunning
19 April 2017

(Imperial College London) – Plastic waste entering the seas from both sides of the North Atlantic is accumulating in the Arctic Ocean, where it can damage local wildlife.

The low population of the Arctic Circle means little plastic waste is generated there. However, a new study has shown that the Greenland and Barents Seas (east of Greenland and north of Scandinavia) are accumulating large amounts of plastic debris that is carried and trapped there by ocean currents.

The new study, published today in Science Advances, found that the Greenland and Barents seas have accumulated hundreds of tons of plastic debris composed of around 300 billion pieces, mainly fragments around the size of a grain of rice. The vast majority of these fragments originate form the North Atlantic.

The team behind the study is composed of researchers from eight countries, led by Professor Andrés Cózar from the University of Cadiz in Spain, and including Dr Erik van Sebille from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

Plastic is transported from the North Atlantic to the Arctic by the Gulf Stream, a huge ocean current that also carries warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Europe and the US east coast.

Once it gets to the Arctic Ocean, this current sinks and travels back to the equator, but the plastic does not sink with it, leaving it to build up in Arctic waters.

Ecosystem under threat

Plastic is a problem for local wildlife as marine organisms mistakenly eat, are poisoned by, or become tangled in floating plastic, which damages their health and can kill them.

Dr van Sebille, who now works at Utrecht University, said: "The Arctic is one of the most pristine ecosystems we still have. And at the same time it is probably the ecosystem most under threat from climate change and sea ice melt. Any extra pressure on the animals in the Arctic, from plastic litter or other pollution, can be disastrous.”

The team sailed on an expedition to the Arctic Ocean in order to complete a global map of floating plastic pollution. The expedition lasted five months and circumnavigated the Arctic ice cap aboard the research vessel Tara.

Professor Cózar said: “The plastic concentrations in the Arctic waters were usually low, but we found an area located in the north of the Greenland and the Barents seas with quite high concentrations. There is continuous transport of floating litter from the North Atlantic, and the Greenland and Barents seas act as a dead-end for this poleward conveyor belt of plastic.”

Prevention is the cure

To find the fate of plastic in the North Atlantic, team used data from over 17,000 drifting satellite-tracked buoys floating on the surface of the ocean. They then pieced together how the plastic ended up in the Arctic hotspots by using advanced statistics, which model how ocean currents move these buoys.

Dr van Sebille said: "What is really worrisome is that we can track this plastic near Greenland and in the Barents Sea directly to the coasts of northwest Europe, the UK and the east coast of the US. It is our plastic that ends up there, so we have a responsibility to fix the problem.

"We need to stop the plastic from going into the ocean in the first place. Once the plastic is in the ocean, it's too diffusive, too small and too intermingled with algae to easily filter out. Prevention is the best cure."

Floating plastic pollution from Europe and the US is accumulating in the Arctic


Photo collage of plastic fragments found in the Arctic Ocean. Although plastic debris was scarce in most of the Arctic waters, it reached high concentrations in areas of the Greenland and Barents seas. Photo: Andres Cozar

ABSTRACT: The subtropical ocean gyres are recognized as great marine accumulation zones of floating plastic debris; however, the possibility of plastic accumulation at polar latitudes has been overlooked because of the lack of nearby pollution sources. In the present study, the Arctic Ocean was extensively sampled for floating plastic debris from the Tara Oceans circumpolar expedition. Although plastic debris was scarce or absent in most of the Arctic waters, it reached high concentrations (hundreds of thousands of pieces per square kilometer) in the northernmost and easternmost areas of the Greenland and Barents seas. The fragmentation and typology of the plastic suggested an abundant presence of aged debris that originated from distant sources. This hypothesis was corroborated by the relatively high ratios of marine surface plastic to local pollution sources. Surface circulation models and field data showed that the poleward branch of the Thermohaline Circulation transfers floating debris from the North Atlantic to the Greenland and Barents seas, which would be a dead end for this plastic conveyor belt. Given the limited surface transport of the plastic that accumulated here and the mechanisms acting for the downward transport, the seafloor beneath this Arctic sector is hypothesized as an important sink of plastic debris.

The Arctic Ocean as a dead end for floating plastics in the North Atlantic branch of the Thermohaline Circulation

Comparison of the probability distribution of Antarctic mass loss (left) and global total sea level rise (right) in 2100 compared to 1985–2005 for the RCP8.5 scenario for: IPCC AR5 (red), Antarctic mass loss DP16 (blue), including temperature dependent Antarctic mass loss DP16T (green). A sensitivity of global estimates to the γ parameter representing CMIP5 model ensemble uncertainty is also added: DP16T with γ = 1.64 (black) instead of 1 for the other curves. Graphic: Le Bars, et al., 2017 / Environmental Research Letters

25 April 2017 (University of Southampton) – Global sea levels could rise by more than three metres – over half a metre more than previously thought – this century alone, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Southampton scientist.

An international team including Sybren Drijfhout, Professor in Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics, looked at what might happen if carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated.

Using new projections of Antarctic mass loss and a revised statistical method, they concluded that a worst-case scenario of a 2.5 to three-metre sea level rise was possible by 2100.

Professor Drijfhout said: “It might be an unlikely scenario, but we can’t exclude the possibility of global sea levels rising by more than three metres by the year 2100.

“Unabated global warming will lead to sea-level rise of many metres – possibly more than ten metres – within a few centuries, seriously threatening many cities all over the world that are built in low-lying river deltas. This will also seriously affect the coastline of the UK.”

The research – published this month in Environmental Research Letters – is consistent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recent adjustment of its possible future high-end sea-level rise from two to 2.5 metres.

However, the new study integrated different model estimates with a new statistical method, whereas the NOAA estimate relied on expert judgment.

Recent observation and modelling studies have shown the future melt of Antarctica might happen dramatically faster than previously thought.

Professor Drijfhout and scientists at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, which led the research, took this and other factors – including ocean warming, glacier melt, land water storage and Greenland ice sheet melt – into account to create their projection.

“This is the first time that robust statistical techniques have been used to develop a scenario like this, whereas previous high-end sea level projections have always been based on subjective expert judgment,” said Professor Drijfhout.

“It’s important for policy-makers and the general public to know what the consequences might be when carbon dioxide emissions are not decreased, especially as there is a severe time-lag between emission-reduction and the sea-level rise response.

“Also, the construction of artificial flood defences need to take account of low-probability events, including the possibility that the international community fails to take adequate measures in reducing measures.

“We should not forget that the Paris Agreement is only a declaration of intention, and that no adequate measures have yet been agreed to turn these intentions into policy.”

The team’s projection explicitly accounted for three scientific uncertainties – the speed at which the Antarctic ice sheet is going to melt, the speed at which the ocean is warming up, and the amount of emitted greenhouse gases over the 21st century.

Sea levels could rise by more than three metres, shows new study


ABSTRACT: The potential for break-up of Antarctic ice shelves by hydrofracturing and following ice cliff instability might be important for future ice dynamics. One recent study suggests that the Antarctic ice sheet could lose a lot more mass during the 21st century than previously thought. This increased mass-loss is found to strongly depend on the emission scenario and thereby on global temperature change. We investigate the impact of this new information on high-end global sea level rise projections by developing a probabilistic process-based method. It is shown that uncertainties in the projections increase when including the temperature dependence of Antarctic mass loss and the uncertainty in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) model ensemble. Including these new uncertainties we provide probability density functions for the high-end distribution of total global mean sea level in 2100 conditional on emission scenario. These projections provide a probabilistic context to previous extreme sea level scenarios developed for adaptation purposes.

A high-end sea level rise probabilistic projection including rapid Antarctic ice sheet mass loss

Flood Risk and Sea Level Rise in South Bay, San Francisco, California. The pink and red areas of this map show areas of the South Bay that are vulnerable to sea level rise. The pink zone shows a 16-inch rise; the red zone shows those areas within a 55-inch rise. As shown, the offices of numerous Silicon Valley firms lie within or near these zones. The purple indicates those areas vulnerable to a 100-year flood, or a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. Map produced by GreenInfo Network. Data from Knowles 2008, Seigel and Bachand 2002, FEMA, and California GAP 2009. Graphic: South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study

By Geoff Williams
14 April 2017

(US News and World Report) – Tornadoes have been striking the country at a record rate this year so far, according to numbers released from the U.S. Storm Prediction Center (536 tornadoes in 2017, based on preliminary data at the time of this writing). Meanwhile, in many parts of the country, severe storms have been passing through almost with the regularity of an assembly line, blamed by record temperatures at the water's surface in the Gulf of Mexico. Further, 2016 was the warmest year for the planet on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

All of this undoubtedly would make any homeowner wonder: As heat, tornadoes, and storms continue to break records, will the extreme weather eventually break my home insurance policy?

Probably not. But as the years go on, when it comes to your homeowners insurance coverage, there will be changes.

You may end up factoring in climate change before you buy a home. It depends where you're looking for a house, of course, and this is already happening. Real estate agents and companies have been furnishing data that suggests home sales in flood-prone areas have been growing at a slower rate than in counties that don't have a reputation for flooding. For instance, last year, ATTOM Data Solutions, a source for comprehensive housing data, released its annual U.S. Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index, which found that home sales had fallen below the national average in counties with the highest risk of earthquakes, hurricane storm surge, wildfires and floods, while counties with the lowest risk for those natural hazards have seen home sales volumes increase faster than the national average.

People are going to be thinking about natural disasters and their homes more frequently than they used to, says Donna Childs, who owns Prisere LLC, a Warwick, Rhode Island-based company that consults businesses on disaster prevention and specializes in helping companies come up with solutions for reducing their risk to the negative consequences of climate change.

According to Childs, in the past your pre-purchase due diligence "involved a home inspection and consideration of the neighborhood with regard to such issues as the quality of the local school system," she says. "Now … you must consider the extent to which the community is at risk from rising water levels and other threats." [more]

How Climate Change Will Impact Homeowners Insurance

(Upper) relative contribution of different flood types in the total property value exposure in current settings; (lower) Cumulative Hazard Index (CHI) in the current system. The upper panel summarizes the contribution of each coastal flood category in total property exposure to flooding. Major floods are responsible for approximately 60%–70% of the total exposure to coastal flooding. This is because of their higher associated property value relative to minor events, and significantly higher frequency relative to extreme events, that has made the product much larger than the other two categories. The lower panel presents the estimated CHI for all the studies gauges, under their current settings. As explained before, CHI is a simple ratio for framing the impacts of NF versus extreme events whose impacts are often better understood by decision makers. Graphic: Moftakhari, et al., 2017 / Earth's Future

Irvine, California, 21 February 2017 (UCI) – Global climate change is being felt in many coastal communities of the United States, not always in the form of big weather disasters but as a steady drip, drip, drip of nuisance flooding.

According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, rising sea levels will cause these smaller events to become increasingly frequent in the future, and the cumulative effect will be comparable to extreme events such as Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy.

“Catastrophic storms get a lot of media attention and are studied, but we wanted to know more about the non-extreme events,” said Amir AghaKouchak, UCI associate professor of civil & environmental engineering and co-author of a new study on cumulative hazards in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth’s Future.

“These diffuse floods happen multiple times a month or year,” he said. “They don’t kill anyone, they don’t damage buildings, but over time they have extremely high-cost outcomes, and it happens without us realizing it.”

In Washington, D.C., for instance, the number of hours of nuisance flooding per year has grown from 19 between 1930 and 1970 to 94 over the last two decades. Projections suggest that there could be as many as 700 hours of nuisance flooding per year by 2050. The capital’s monuments, marinas, parks, public transportation infrastructure, roads and businesses could be affected. The UCI researchers found similar potential impacts in four other American cities: Miami, New York, Seattle and San Francisco.

Climate change is driving the growth of cumulative hazards, they noted. A full moon on a clear night triggering higher tides is now enough to cause flooding, because ocean levels are so high.

“The frequency is increasing because of sea level rise,” AghaKouchak said. “We call it clear-sky flooding. There’s no rain, but if you have a higher-than-usual tide, you get flooding in these coastal areas.”

While not catastrophic at the time, these episodes degrade infrastructure and can damage roads and building foundations. More immediately, nuisance flooding forces municipalities to expend resources to pump water out of streets. Communities suffer school closures, traffic interruptions, and reverberating waves of cost and inconvenience. Degraded sewer infrastructure results in heightened public health risks.

Lead author Hamed Moftakhari, a UCI postdoctoral scholar, said that people in often-hit regions have begun the process of adapting to the problem. “In a recent social science survey, people weren’t really interested in knowing the depth of the water. They just wanted to know how long they would be flooded,” he said. “Their main concern was finding out when they could get back to their schools and businesses.”

But public officials can’t afford to take cumulative hazards in stride, said co-author Richard Matthew, UCI professor of planning, policy & design. Policymakers faced with limited capital funds frequently defer action or make incremental improvements when major investments may be critical to fortify their communities. The team created a cumulative hazards index to pinpoint which locations would experience the greatest long-term risk.

“This index gives officials a tool that could help them decide to move beyond the convenient but potentially very costly strategies of deferral and incrementalism and promote more transformative policies where they make sense,” Matthew said.

Co-author Brett Sanders, UCI professor of civil & environmental engineering, added: “The index is particularly useful for predicting future hot spots for nuisance flooding across the U.S., where adaptation measures are needed the most.”

Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation. Data was provided by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and Climate Central.

Contact

Brian Bell
949-824-8249
bpbell@uci.edu

Over time, nuisance flooding can cost more than extreme, infrequent events


ABSTRACT: The cumulative cost of frequent events (e.g., nuisance floods) over time may exceed the costs of the extreme but infrequent events for which societies typically prepare. Here we analyze the likelihood of exceedances above mean higher high water and the corresponding property value exposure for minor, major, and extreme coastal floods. Our results suggest that, in response to sea level rise, nuisance flooding (NF) could generate property value exposure comparable to, or larger than, extreme events. Determining whether (and when) low cost, nuisance incidents aggregate into high cost impacts and deciding when to invest in preventive measures are among the most difficult decisions for policymakers. It would be unfortunate if efforts to protect societies from extreme events (e.g., 0.01 annual probability) left them exposed to a cumulative hazard with enormous costs. We propose a Cumulative Hazard Index (CHI) as a tool for framing the future cumulative impact of low cost incidents relative to infrequent extreme events. CHI suggests that in New York, NY, Washington, DC, Miami, FL, San Francisco, CA, and Seattle, WA, a careful consideration of socioeconomic impacts of NF for prioritization is crucial for sustainable coastal flood risk management.

Cumulative hazard: The case of nuisance flooding

A bleached coral near the Great Barrier Reef on 16 March 2017. Photo: Reuters

By Robinson Meyer
11 April 2017

(The Atlantic) – At about the same moment that millions of Americans sat staring at their television or laptop or phone—watching the results from the presidential election stream in, seeing state after state called for Donald Trump—Kim Cobb was SCUBA diving near the center of the Pacific Ocean. She did not watch the same trickle of news as other Americans. She surfaced, heard the results, and dove in the water again. She was, after all, attending to devastation.

Cobb is a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. On November 8, she was on her most recent of many research trips to Kiritimati Island reef, the largest coral atoll in the world. (Kirimati is pronounced like Christmas.) She first began studying the reef in 1997, during the last big El Niño warming event; she has returned nearly every year since. Last year, she went three times.

“We had been waiting for the big one. And boy… did it happen,” she told me earlier this year. “It really rolled out at an unprecedented magnitude. This particular El Niño event had its maximum temperature loading almost in a bulls-eye almost around Kirimati Island.”

By any measure, its caused a cataclysm. Eighty-five percent of the corals in the reef died: They will never recover, disintegrating into sand over the next several years. Two-thirds of the surviving corals bleached in some way, meaning they did not reproduce and may have sustained long-term damage.

“Almost none of this reef has made it through 2015 and 2016,” Cobb said, calling the event “the wholesale destruction of the reef.”

By any measure, 2016 was not a good year for coral reefs. El Niño raised ocean temperatures worldwide, devastating corals the world over. The Great Barrier Reef—the sprawling system off the coast of Australia, and among the world’s  most biodiverse reef systems—suffered a particularly debilitating year. Miles and miles of the coral reef bleached so severely, and for so long, that they died.

On Monday, news broke that it happened again. For the second year in a row, warm ocean temperatures are bleaching the Great Barrier Reef. The white splotches of ocean floor indicative of the phenomenon run even farther south—some 500 kilometers—than they did last year. The bleaching occurred even though there is no worldwide El Niño this year: The reef is ailed not by a rare climatic phenomenon but by the baseline warming of the oceans.

Until this decade, back-to-back bleaching events like that simply didn’t happen.

“It’s new. It is so new. It’s a complete change in the phenomenon that all of us study,” said Ruth Gates, a professor at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and the president of the International Society for Reef Studies. “We knew that this day would come—we’ve been seeing the thermal-tolerance threshold for corals get closer and closer, and we knew it was pushing over the limit for coral survival.” [more]

Ruins, Not Reefs: How Climate Change Is Fast-Forwarding Coral Science

Estimated sea level rise (SLR) net migrants (in-migrants minus out-migrants) for counties and core based statistical areas under the 1.8 m SLR scenario and no adaptation. Core based statistical areas. This graphic considers only counties located in Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs). Counties and CBSAs without expected SLR in-migration are in white. States are abbreviated to standard two-letter codes. Graphic: Hauer, 2017 / Nature Climate Change

By Jake Ellison
20 April 2017

(Seattle PI) – Whether humans, especially those living in America, will do anything to reduce global warming and salvage some of the world's ice — as well as keep the oceans cooler so they don't swell too darn much — remains to be seen. But, as of right now, the seas are forecast to rise as much as six feet by 2100, and we all need to think about what that means and begin planning.

Coastal cities are already drawing up plans to mitigate higher sea levels, but a new study shows that inland, landlocked cities and towns will have to deal with a flood of their own ... not water but people.

By 2100, sea water could push some 13.1 million Americans from 319 coastal counties.

"I find that unmitigated (sea level rise) is expected to reshape the U.S. population distribution, potentially stressing landlocked areas unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants — even after accounting for potential adaptation," writes Mathew Hauer in the study published in Nature Climate Change.

To get a fix on where those people might go, Hauer used current IRS data of where people move to establish current routes of migration and then built in other factors such as infrastructure adaption.

Under his analysis, Seattle picks up an extra 92,062 folks, while San Francisco loses some 252,450 people. The hardest-hit metro area in the country is, of course, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach zone. This part of Florida will lose more than 2 million people, even with rigorous adaptation efforts.

Texas gains the most humans on the run: Nearly 1.5 million. The Austin-Round Rock area alone is likely to need space for 818,938 more. [more]

Study: Seattle grows, San Francisco declines with climate change migration


ABSTRACT: Many sea-level rise (SLR) assessments focus on populations presently inhabiting vulnerable coastal communities1, 2, 3, but to date no studies have attempted to model the destinations of these potentially displaced persons. With millions of potential future migrants in heavily populated coastal communities, SLR scholarship focusing solely on coastal communities characterizes SLR as primarily a coastal issue, obscuring the potential impacts in landlocked communities created by SLR-induced displacement. Here I address this issue by merging projected populations at risk of SLR1 with migration systems simulations to project future destinations of SLR migrants in the United States. I find that unmitigated SLR is expected to reshape the US population distribution, potentially stressing landlocked areas unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants—even after accounting for potential adaptation. These results provide the first glimpse of how climate change will reshape future population distributions and establish a new foundation for modelling potential migration destinations from climate stressors in an era of global environmental change.

Migration induced by sea-level rise could reshape the US population landscape

 

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