Friday, December 29, 2006

Wet Coast Worries

Okay, all you global warming disbelievers go back to your crayons. This isn't for you.

The breakup of the Ayles ice shelf on Ellesmere Island announced yesterday is the sort of thing that gets noticed by us coastal denizens. There are places not too far away from my home where a sea level increase of just a foot or two would have a truly major impact. How far off is that day?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not panicking. My home sits well back from the shoreline on high ground about sixty feet above current sea levels on low tide. At my age, I'll be gone long before the house even gets wet. But there are plenty of places I have to go that probably wouldn't survive even a modest increase in sea levels.

Make no mistake about it. Ocean levels have already risen. All three of New York's airports are subject to seasonal flooding. A once-inhabited island recently disappeared in the Bay of Bengal and there are plenty more that will soon follow.

We're now told that the Arctic will be ice-free and open to summer navigation within the next thirty to forty years. Time and again we've seen scientists surprised that changes are occuring much faster than they predicted.

So what lies ahead. It's estimated that a melt of the Greenland ice sheet would cause a sea level rise of 23-feet.

The good news is that most of Canada's ice shelves are already 90% smaller than when they were surveyed a century earlier. The bad news is that the remainder aren't just gradually melting away but are breaking up much more quickly than predicted.

The winter storms we've been having out here lately are a stark reminder of the reality of climate change. Massive concrete seawalls that have held back the sea and sand for decades are now being overwhelmed. Low-lying lands are flooding with greater frequency. It's pretty hard to deny what you can see with your own eyes.

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