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Posts tagged ‘sea level rise’

Sea Level Rise , “High Tide in the Main Street” book

rito Moreno Glazier in Argentina

Photo from Perito Moreno Glazier in Argentina

I have recently finished High tide in the Main Street book, by John Englander, both Oceanographer and great blogger. It is the perfect opportunity to talk about one of the most evident and important consequences of climate change: Sea Level Rise. In this post I am not going to review the book, the short summary is that I liked it because it is clear, short and well explained. So, highly recommended. Instead of talking about the book itself I prefer to make a short list of ideas/data about sea level rise, some are from the book but the list is like a personal compilation. So let’s go:

  • Sea Level Rise is one of the most clear and stronger consequences of climate change.
  • The reason for sea level rise is mostly the melting of land ice. The ice over water does not change seal level. So the places to watch are, in strict order, Antartica, Greenland and Glaziers around the world. The water thermal expansion is a small effect in comparison.
  • Meters (the key factor and the most difficult):
    • The total range of melting is quite impressive. If all that ice is melted the sea level can rise mode than 60 m. In the ice ages the sea level was almost 200 m lower than today. A rule of thumb from historical records is 10 m with a temperature 2ÂșC more than now.
    • Greenland ice alone is 7 m of sea level rise.
    • In this moment the measurements are in order of mm or cm.
    • The projections for this century are a bit uncertain and depend on what we do but are in the range of 0.5 m to 1 m.
    • Those meters are in vertical. The translation in area lost in the cost strongly depends on the particular case, but it can be much more in flat lands.
  • Time:
    • Sea level rise needs some time, the melting is not immediate but lasts for a long time and it can not be stopped.
    • There are important tipping points difficult to predict. When some parts of Greenland or Antartica start to melt they will go fast to the sea and sea level will accelerate. It is difficult to say at which temperature will occur and this adds a lot of uncertainty.
  • Consequences:
    • Most problems start before too much rising: Stronger storms, coastal flooding, high tides, freshwater salinization,…
    • Economical consequences will be huge and will start in the moment we get convinced of sea level rise.
    • Many beautiful and expensive coastal areas will loose their property value.
    • The most extreme case are the islands that will become inhabitable. Some countries will disappear. How do we value them?
    • Some coastal zones will be protected with dams or other means but that is quite expensive too and the grade of protection will depend on the amount of sea level rise.
    • Only countries or regions with enough money and vision will be able to prepare protection measurements.
    • Some zones just cannot be protected due to soil structure.
    • Many specific infrastructures will have to be adapted many times
  • We have developed our civilization with a stable sea level and many infrastructures like harbours are built very precisely for a sea level.
  • Our civilization is concentrated in the coastal areas, for many reasons. Their change will have a deep effect.


Book cover, Image from Wikipedia

I recently finished reading this wonderful book, located 199 years from now, more or less. This science fiction novel describes a solar system vastly colonized and terraformed with many new worlds (Mars, Saturn league, Venus) starting to compete with an overpopulated and at the same time desastrous Earth planet. In many senses it is a continuation of the famous and successful Mars Trilogy from the same author: Kim Stanley Robinson. Many of the future trends are similar in both as the flourishing solar system colonies with a decadent but still strong Earth, the differences between spacers and terrans, the struggle between Earths capitalism and new Mondragon based cooperative economies, the longevity treatments and consequent change of living ages, relationships, social structures,… But there is an important difference, at least from this blog point of view, in Mars trilogy the Earths disaster explodes due to a volcano eruption in Antarctica, in 2312 it is climate change the main factor for social unrest and hunger in Earth due to sea level rise, loose of arable land, ocean acidification, extreme weather,…

Each time the book action closes to Earth the explicit climate change mentions are clear and countless (I have noted more than 15), for example:

  • Description of fife in the new Manhattan built over flooded streets is spectacular.
  • Same situation in other cities as Shanghai is mentioned.
  • Africa is suffocated by heat waves.
  • A terraforming project in Greenland is explained to stop ice cap melt.
  • The reanimation mentioned in the book consists of reintroducing several wild animals extinguished for loose of their habitats (animals struggling to survive nowadays).

This could be a the great book explicit and scientifically sound in climate change as Joe Romm asked, even if there are others from the same author more focused on that, I cannot talk about them because I have not read them, for the moment. This one is very clear and precise, considering what current scientific consensus thinks, and it is a great novel, already awarded a Nebula and nominated for the Hugo. And shows the importance gained by climate change challenge in the well informed Kim-Stanley-Robinson-future-world-prespective from the mid-nineties up to know (Mars trilogy was described as hiperealistic science fiction).