A latest study by NASA scientists using satellite data suggests that a rise of up to 1 meter in the global sea level may become inevitable. NASA scientists used a series of highly sensitive altimeters to measure the ocean height from the space.
The study further reveals that there has been an average increase of 8 centimeters in the sea levels since 1992. Scientists add that the sea levels have been rising at a faster rate than they were half a decade ago and this rate is going to further increase over coming decades.
Previously, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had predicted in 2013 that the sea level rise would be in the order of 0.3 to 0.9 meters by the end of the century.
If these predictions turn out to be true, then they may lead to serious disasters across the world. Let us try to understand why sea level rises and what are its likely consequences.
Why does the sea level rise?
A sea-level basically refers to the average level of the surface of water in the ocean. Many factors like ocean currents, ocean density, and water and ice mass exchange between land and ocean influence the sea-level. But, the major factors behind sea level rise are thermal expansion of water and melting of ice caps and glaciers.
Thermal expansion of water refers to the property of water to expand, i.e. increase in volume when there is an increase in temperature. Therefore, even a slight increase in temperature can cause a large increase in the volume of water resulting in sea level change.
The melting polar ice-caps and glaciers are another contributing factor. Melting of polar ice caps and glaciers during summer season is a natural phenomenon. This used to be more or less compensated by the re-formation of ice caps and the falling snow during winter seasons. But, the ever increasing global temperature has induced a rapid melting of ice during summer and a decreased falling of snow during winter. This has in-turn led to an increase in the net quantity of water in the ocean. This phenomenon has occurred even in case of ice-sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica. The ice-sheets are melting at a very faster pace with each passing year.
One report on sea level change states: “Observations since 1971 indicate that thermal expansion and glaciers (excluding Antarcticglaciers peripheral to the ice sheet) explain75% of the observed rise (high confidence). The contribution of theGreenland and Antarctic ice sheets has increased since the early 1990s, partly from increased outflow induced by warming of the immediately adjacent ocean.”
Therefore, global warming that leads to increase in temperature across the world (causing both increased thermal expansion and the melting of ice caps) is the main culprit behind sea level rise. In other words, all those human actions that contribute toward global warming and heat-stress also contribute towards sea level rise.
What are the consequences of sea level rise?
Increase in sea level may have wide change of consequences. Various small island nations and low-lying islands are especially at risk. For example, an estimate released by Copenhagen International Climate Congress has forecasted that many of the islands in the Maldives may get swallowed by the sea by 2100, making the whole country of small islands uninhabitable. Therefore, many low-lying islands are at the risk of getting completely submerged. Other Islands may face severe floods and storms as well.
The coastal areas across the world including India may face various risks. Increased sea-level may cause erosion of soil, increased risks of flooding, cyclones, contamination of agricultural soil, pollution of fresh-water sources etc. Further, people living along the coastline will face increased threat to their life and property. In case of India, sea-level increase may induce cyclones in Bay of Bengal and may cause severe damage to islands like Andaman apart from causing various damages along the coastal area.
It is high time that the efforts at fighting global warming and climate change are escalated to prevent massive natural crisis that may result from climate change.
Washington, October 29, 2017 : Winter is coming … later. And it’s leaving ever earlier.
Across the United States, the year’s first freeze has been arriving further and further into the calendar, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide.
Scientists say it is yet another sign of the changing climate, and that it has good and bad consequences for the nation. There could be more fruits and vegetables — and also more allergies and pests.
“I’m happy about it,” said Karen Duncan of Streator, Illinois. Her flowers are in bloom because she’s had no frost this year yet, just as she had none last year at this time, either. On the other hand, she said just last week it was too hot and buggy to go out — in late October, near Chicago.
The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
To look for nationwide trends, Kunkel compared the first freeze from each of the 700 stations to the station’s average for the 20th century. Some parts of the country experience earlier or later freezes every year, but on average freezes are coming later.
Average first freeze
The average first freeze over the last 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.
This year, about 40 percent of the Lower 48 states had a freeze as of October 23, compared with 65 percent in a normal year, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.
Duncan’s flowers should be dead by now. According to data from the weather station near her in Ottawa, Illinois, the average first freeze for the 20th century was October 15. The normal from 1981 to 2010 based on NOAA computer simulations was October 19. Since 2010, the average first freeze is on October 26. Last year, the first freeze in Ottawa came on Nov. 12.
Last year was “way off the charts” nationwide, Kunkel said. The average first freeze was two weeks later than the 20th century average, and the last frost of spring was nine days earlier than normal.
Overall the United States freeze season of 2016 was more than a month shorter than the freeze season of 1916. It was most extreme in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon’s freeze season was 61 days shorter than normal.
Global warming has helped push the first frosts later, Kunkel and other scientists said. Also at play, though, are natural short-term changes in air circulation patterns, but they, too, may be influenced by man-made climate change, they said.
This shrinking freeze season is what climate scientists have long predicted, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.
Some plants suffer
A shorter freeze season means a longer growing season and less money spent on heat. But it also hurts some plants that require a certain amount of chill, such as Georgia peaches, said Theresa Crimmins, a University of Arizona ecologist. Crimmins is assistant director of the National Phenology Network. Phenology is the study of the seasons and how plants and animals adapt to timing changes.
Pests that attack trees and spread disease aren’t being killed off as early as they normally would be, Crimmins said.
In New England, many trees aren’t changing colors as vibrantly as they normally do or used to, because some take cues for when to turn from temperature, said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack.
Clusters of late-emerging monarch butterflies are being found far farther north than normal for this time of year, and are unlikely to survive their migration to Mexico.
Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said natural variability, especially an El Nino, made last year exceptional for an early freeze, but “it represents the kind of conditions that will be more routine in a decade or two” because of man-made climate change.
“The long-term consequences are really negative,” said Primack, because shorter winters and hotter temperatures are also expected to lead to rising seas that cause worse flooding during heavy storms.
In suburban Boston, Primack and his wife are still eating lettuce, tomatoes and green beans from their garden. And they are getting fresh figs off their backyard tree almost daily.
“These fig trees should be asleep,” Primack said. (VOA)
New Delhi, September 25, 2017: What if we told you that our landmasses are shrinking and disappearing under water? The earth’s climate is rapidly changing and life is at risk. Human impact on the environment, which first began when our ancestors began to stalk and collect the natural resources. It is now of such intensity that it threatens to radically amend the planet’s ecology – its climate, water, air, and even life.
The highly-dramatized Hollywood fiction film ‘2012’ left deep impressions on our minds, opening us to the possibility of a possible catastrophe. Rising sea levels that submerge complete islands were thought of as a distant possibility of this apocalyptic future. But in the idyllic Indian subcontinent, it seems that the destruction is here already.
The ‘Disappearance’ of Parali I
A report by PTI in early September revealed that the Parali I island, a biodiversity-rich uninhabited island of the Lakshadweep archipelago, has completely vanished due to coastal erosion.
R M Hidayathulla, a PhD scholar from the Calicut University in Kerala, made the revelations in his study titled “Studies on Coastal Erosion in Selected Uninhabited Islands of Lakshadweep Archipelago with Special Reference to Biodiversity Conservation.”
“We can say Lakshadweep now is not an archipelago of 36 islands,” Hidayathulla was quoted as saying.
In the study, Hidayathulla assessed the biodiversity confining to five uninhabited islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago – Bangaram, Thinnakara, Parali I, II and III.
Parali I, part of the Bangaram Atoll, that stretched across 0.032 km2 in 1968, has now eroded to a 100 per cent extent thus, resulting in its complete inundation.
Hidayathulla, in his study, has further claimed that a general trend of erosion has been noticed in almost all islands that were studied. Thus, while we have already lost one island, another four stand at risk of similar inundation.
According to distinguished climate expert, Mr Chandra Bhushan, the research by Hidayathulla is one of the few studies carried in India to establish the erosion and complete inundation of an island.
“India’s coasts and islands, which are densely populated, are highly vulnerable,” told Mr Bhushan, who is currently associated with the Centre for Science and Environment as deputy director general.
The Ghoramara village in the Sunderban delta, West Bengal, was the first region of the Indian territory to face the brunt of the rising water levels. More than 50 per cent of the village was inundated in the mid-2000s.
However, erosion of the Ghoramara was never paid much attention to by the media or the government as it was not of immediate economic interest to the larger population.
While Ghoramara continues to shrink and Parali I has already inundated, with another four islands expected to follow the route, our land masses are at risk. But the issue has remained largely ignored.
Reporter Soha Kala of NewsGram brings you an exclusive conversation with Mr Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi where he shares his insight about the fate of the world’s vanishing islands.
“Banishing of Parali I is just the beginning and We are going to see much more devastation. The US has just suffered two hurricanes and three are in line. The Caribbean has been devastated. India has been experiencing extremely bad weather. In such a scenario, The media has been unable to understand and prioritize the important issues of all times and, therefore, they are not reporting them.”
Media coverage of the world’s vanishing islands’ plight has been comprehensive. Around the world and in a variety of languages, the tiny country Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and several others in the Pacific region have been a topic for discussion in the last few years.
These islands have become the poster child for the impact of the greenhouse effect and global warming, and have definitely provided a definite face to climate change and its repercussions. Journalists have extensively covered the story of Tuvalu’s sea-level rise. The inundation of the Solomon Islands also received due coverage with The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Washington Post being some of the media outlets that reported on the issue.
However, the Indian media is yet to take into account the fate of the Parali I island, with the attention paid to the issue ranging from scanty coverage to mere ignorance.
“I think one of the reasons is because Parali I is an island somewhere in the Indian ocean- out of sight, out of mind. Parali I was not habituated, which means the absence of an economic interest. And, therefore, it has not been of much interest to the mainstream media,” believes Mr Bhushan.
Mr Bushan agrees that the question NewsGram is raising is absolutely important – Indian mainstream media seems to be losing sight of some of the most important issues of our time. Environment and climate change are one of them.
Why is Sea Level Rising?
Mr Bhushan asserts that the threat of rising sea levels has been previously drastically underestimated. The sea level continues to rise at more than 3 mm per year; a trend Mr Bhushan suggests is only going to hasten because of global warming.
“About two-thirds of the global warming is currently being absorbed by the oceans. As the water warms, it expands and therefore, the sea level rises”, he explained.
Additionally, as the temperatures continue on an upward trend, the glaciers and sea ice continue to melt, which normally increases the sea level.
“Global warming is going to continue and sea levels are going to rise because of the past carbon dioxide emissions, the current emissions and the future projected emissions. Even if we reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which is highly unlikely, we will see the temperature increase of about 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era”, believes Mr Bhushan.
This spiralling trend signals that the low-lying islands and coastal areas will be susceptible to inundation and some islands will vanish.
The list of which has already begun.
“There is a very clear prediction that some of the important islands of Maldives are going to get reduced in size or even completely inundated. Similar things will happen in Lakshadweep as well as some parts of Andaman. Also, Bay of Bengal and Sundarbans are extremely vulnerable. In the worst case scenario, about a third of Bangladesh will go down.”
The Key Drivers of Climate Change
The Earth is home to millions of species. But only one dominates it and i.e Humans.
Our attitudes, inventiveness and practices have a profound impact and have in fact, modified most parts of our planet. Looking at the current trend, it won’t be wrong to say that we are the drivers of several global problems the world is currently facing.
A research by the Australian National University (ANU) had revealed in February that humans are forcing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.
For the last 7,000 years, the principal forces to drive changes in the climate have been astronomical in nature – changes in the orbital parameters and the solar intensity, and the nature and activity of volcanoes. According to Professor Steffen of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Climate Change Institute at ANU, these factors when combined drive a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century.
However, “human-generated greenhouse gas emissions in the last 45 years have increased this rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century,” he said in an official report.
We are not implying that the damage by geological processes or the astronomical forces of the solar system has minimized. But, in comparison to their impact in a mere 45 year period, they are now negligible in comparison to the influence exercised by us.
Such is the destruction caused by humans and this does not cease to stop.
What Can Be Done To Save Our Islands From Vanishing?
Mr Chandra Bhushan believes humanity still has a chance to delay, if not prevent, catastrophic climate change, but time is rapidly running out.
During our conversation with him, the environmental expert highlighted the necessity to immediately undertake coastal and island protection measures- bio-protection being the first line of defense.
He asserted the importance of maintaining healthy mangroves and deciding against mindfully modifying the coastal areas.
Mangroves are known to reduce wave energy as waves travel through them; thus, a healthy practice would be to maintain at least 200 metres of mangrove belts between the embankment and the sea to protect the landmass from eroding.
While this may seem like a practical alternative against erosion, the mangroves themselves are susceptible to erosion when the soil under their root systems is destabilized by wave action.
To counter the damage, seawalls and other man-made protection measures have been built in some areas of the country- the most notable being the sea walls in Marine Drive and in Pudducherry.
These concrete structures called tetrapods have been used to reduce the impact of the sea. But if you think these are sufficient to help us wage a war against the strength of Nature, then you should probably reconsider your stand.
The tetrapods in Mumbai require to be replaced annually, or a certain area of the well gets inundated. Similarly, the rising water levels have been eroding the sea walls in Pudducherry as a result of which the walls are collapsing.
Mr Chandra Bhushan told our reporter Soha Kala that all these are temporary solutions till we address the fundamental issue of reversing the global warming. Without this, it will be a losing battle.
He suggested that we look at temporary short-term measures as well as long-term measures to counter the loss of land masses.
“The world today is talking about how to reduce emission but reducing emission is not going to be sufficient. You have to start talking about negative emission – of sucking carbon dioxide from atmosphere and storing it somewhere.”
Is there nothing that can save our islands from erosion and subsequent inundation?
“As I see, looking at the global trend right now, I am not very optimistic,” said Mr Bhushan.
While we are yet to witness the mainstream media tend to the inundation of Parali I, what is equally upsetting is to see no reaction from the government either.
“Climate change is the gangrene that the world is facing right now. I tell this to everyone, it is as if you have gangrene and the governments are putting a bandage on it. They are not thinking about surgery.”
We are currently facing a very grave crisis, the gravity of which has not been sufficiently recognized by the Central government which is yet to release any official statement on the issue. And Mr Bhushan agrees. He told NewsGram that as far as his information, the Indian Government, or for that matter, governments across the world are not serious enough- serious to the proportion of the crisis that we face.
Analyzing the current trend, Dr Bhushan said, “A number of areas will get devastated. I think the world will have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.”
This year’s winter was warmest in India with 2.95 degrees above the average temperature
The report was published by CSE on World Environment Day
It is only during the monsoon months that the temperature increase is about one degree
India, June 6, 2017: The winter in January-February this year in India was the hottest in history, with 2.95 degrees Celsius more than the baseline, said a CSE study on Monday.
Revealing its findings on World Environment Day, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) underlined the crisis of global warming in the context of India.
The analysis, based on temperature trends from 1901 till recent years, finds that India has been getting warmer continuously, consistently and rapidly.
“The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing with rising temperature. For example, in winter of 2017, when the average temperature was 2.95 degree Celsius higher than the 1901-30 baseline, the worst drought in a century happened in southern India, in which Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala were worst-hit, with 330 million coming in the grip of drought,” the CSE study said.
It pointed out that 13 of the 15 warmest years were in the past 15 years (2002-16) and the last decade (2001-10 and 2007-16) were the warmest on record. It said the annual mean temperature in India had risen by about 1.2 degrees since the beginning of the 20th century.
“Annual mean temperature in India has rapidly increased since 1995. At this rate of increase, it will breach the 1.5 degrees mark within the next two decades.”
Efforts to restrict the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius was the aspirational target set under the Paris Agreement.
“With the US exiting the Paris Agreement, controlling emissions and temperature is now a tougher task for the world. We appeal to the global community to come together and take strong actions,” said Sunita Narain, the CSE Director General.
The study asserted that in three out of four seasons (or nine months in a year), temperature in India had already increased by more than 1.5 degree Celsius since the beginning of the 20th century.
It is only during the monsoon months that the temperature increase is about one degree.
The CSE said that while 2016 was the second warmest year in India, the summers of 2010, when the average temperature was 2.05 degrees higher than the baseline, was the highest in recorded history.
“These conditions claimed more than 300 lives. In addition, four cyclonic storms hit India that year (2010).
“India is warming and warming rapidly. The implications of this fundamental fact are serious for economic, social and ecological well-being of the country. We are experiencing frequent extreme weather events, and our weather is becoming unpredictable,” said Chandra Bhushan, the CSE Deputy Director General. (IANS)