CRUCIAL GLOBAL WARMING FACT #6:
WORLDWIDE SEA LEVELS ROSE ABOUT 8 INCHES OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS.
BUT NOW, THEY’RE RISING MUCH FASTER. THE BEST PREDICTIVE MODELS SAY
THEY “MOST LIKELY” WILL RISE MORE THAN 14 INCHES, IN THE NEXT 40 YEARS
When people ask, `Have we been able to measure, and prove, that sea-levels are actually rising?', one of the standard evasions, used by climate change deniers (I prefer to call them `paid disrupters') is to begin spewing out numbers, with the deliberate intent of making the numbers (and the issue itself) complicated, hard to follow, hard to understand, impossible to remember, and impossible to explain to anyone else. We need to simplify things, and the subheading above is an effort to do exactly that. Plus, if two straightforward facts are placed directly next to each other and compared, they should be enough to help at least some voters understand, a bit better, the dangers that are coming at us like a runaway train, with us trapped on the tracks.
Fact 6.1: Over the past 100 years, sea levels rose, at least 8 inches. Sources, for that? Well, the U.S. Navy, for starters. As patriots, and as people who have dedicated their lives to helping keep America strong, Republicans and conservatives can and should trust the Navy, more than they trust Democrats. Plus, the Navy is in a line of work where they NEED to know the actual hard facts, about sea level rise.
However, I must also add that the Navy does NOT like to issue clear, direct, uncluttered numbers -- presumably, because they do NOT want to confront and antagonize the members of Congress who control their budgets, and who do not want to be confronted by facts set forth so clearly and directly that they would seem to be deliberately provoking, taunting, and needling those who do not want to know those facts. I have seen dozens of reports that dance all around the actual numbers, and only a very few which actually say them, and explain them -- and those few were in almost all cases written by reporters, consultants, and others, to help the Navy avoid having to actually sign and release such statistics. As just one example, in which the 8" number must be derived from other numbers that were provided, see www.physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/PT.3.3163
As a second brief note about PAST sea level rises, our coastlines are already suffering from major, MAJOR problems, because of that 8 inch rise, in the last 100 years. Think of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans, and what Hurricane Sandy did to New Jersey and New York. Those are hard, undeniable facts. If sea levels continued to rise at just that OLD rate (8 inches/century), those problems would keep getting even WORSE. But, that’s not happening.
Fact 6.2: The SECOND part of the REAL problem is, things are going to start getting a whole lot WORSE, a whole lot FASTER. The current best prediction, based on extensive and careful computer modeling – improved by continuous updating, to reflect new data that are being gathered all the time – is this: the known rates of sea-level rise are on pace to exceed A WORLDWIDE AVERAGE OF 14 INCHES, over JUST THE NEXT 40 YEARS.
People need visual images, to help them get a better sense of what is really happening, so here is a single, straight-forward graph (with more explanation, below), comparing:
(1) sea level rise over the PAST 40 years (from 1980, to 2020), as a 40% fraction (i.e., 3.2 inches) of the 8-inch rate of rise during the past 100 years; and,
(2) the projected sea level rise over the NEXT 40 years (i.e., 14 inches, 2020-2060).
The “14 inches in the next 40 years” number also is consistent with the updated analyses issued in February 2022, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That analysis also predicts sea level rises of more than a foot, just within the next THIRTY YEARS, starting NOW. Over just the next 30 years, predicted sea level rises along the Atlantic are predicted to be 10 to 14 inches for the Atlantic coast, and 14 to 18 inches for the Gulf coast. Even though they don’t cover the exact same span of decades, the NOAA forecasts align so well with the Navy forecasts, that anyone and everyone should take the warnings, in both sets of projections and predictions, very, VERY seriously, rather than trying to create quibbles, clutter, confusion, and evasions over the minor differences between them.
And, if THAT still isn’t enough, the so-called “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC), a scientific group put together by the United Nations, also came out with its most recent update, in February 2022, on just how dire the situation is becoming, and how rapidly. It says pretty much the same kinds of stuff set forth in these nine facts. If anyone would like to see a case study in how `howling disasters, coming at us, hard and fast’ are summarized by mixtures of scientists and diplomats, the entire report can be downloaded, for free, from www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/. If anyone would like a summary, written at the length of an extended news article, they can be found easily, at websites such as www.cnn.com/2022/02/28/ world/un-ipcc-climate-report-adaptation-impacts/index.html (entitled, `Delay means death: We're running out of ways to adapt to the climate crisis, new report shows. Here are the key takeaways') and www.conservation.org/blog/ipcc-report-climate-change-could-soon-outpace-humanitys-ability-to-adapt (the link also repeats the title).
The bottom line is, we’re no longer talking about just millimeters, or inches, of sea level rise. We now need to begin talking to the public – and, voters need to begin asking any and all candidates for Congress – about how many FEET of sea level rise we’re going to see, just in the next 2-3 decades.
CRUCIAL GLOBAL WARMING FACT #7
“KING TIDES” – WHICH HAPPEN PREDICTABLY, SEVERAL TIMES PER YEAR – HAVE RISEN TO A POINT WHERE
THEY NOW FLOOD STREETS, UP TO THE ANKLES, IN NUMEROUS CITIES ON THE ATLANTIC COAST
A preface is needed, to establish the term “king tide” as used in Fact #7. Every year, most oceanic coastlines (this eliminates things like The Great Lakes, and the Mediterranean Sea) will experience 3 or 4 extra-large, extra-high tidal surges. Those tides are called “King Tides”.
No one needs to know, memorize, or remember WHY a few specific high tides, each year, are higher than any others; however, for those who find such things interesting, and who want to know more about what is really happening, here is a brief explanation, which can be skipped by anyone who does not want this level of detail.
DIGRESSION: WHY DO KING TIDES HAPPEN?
King tides (i.e., two or three high tides, each year, which are higher than any other high tides all year long) are caused by a combination of three factors: (i) the alignment of the moon and the sun, on the day or night of a king tide; (ii) the moon will be as close to the earth, as the moon gets, in its orbit; and, (iii) warming and expansion of the ocean water near that coastline, which occurs every summer (in different months, in the northern and southern hemispheres).
All orbits are elliptical, rather than perfect circles, and the moon’s distance from the earth ranges from less than 222 thousand miles (the `perigee’) to more than 252 thousand miles (the `apogee’). Both of those points are reached every time the moon orbits the earth, which takes 27.3 days when measured against distant stars, and 29.5 days when measured against an imaginary line passing through the center of the sun and the center of the earth. Since that imaginary line travels all the way around the sun every year, the moon must always “chase” it, so the “synodic” orbit (29.5 days) takes longer than the “sidereal” orbit (27.3 days). Most people don’t want to have to remember or deal with details like that, so we usually refer to 28 days, as a compromise.
And, the power of a gravitational pull depends up on the distance that separates two objects, SQUARED (i.e., to the second power; the distance at any moment in time must be multiplied by itself, in the equation used to calculate gravity). Therefore, when the moon gets 10% percent closer to the earth, its gravitational pull becomes more than 20% stronger (i.e., 1.1 x 1.1 = 1.21), compared to its lowest level of gravitational pull, when it is most distant.
So, roughly once each month, the sun, moon and earth line up in a certain way, AND, the moon reaches one of its closest points, in its elliptical pathway around the earth.
The third major factor, which also must occur for a `king tide’ to occur, involves summertime warming of the ocean next to a particular coast. For example, the Eastern (Atlantic) coast of America is affected by something called `the Bermuda High’, which occurs every summer, but then moves south, as autumn progresses. That factor causes king tides to occur later, in Florida, than in coastal states farther north.
Although king tides occur on west-facing and south-facing coastlines, they are not as bad, along those coastlines, as on coastlines which face east. Tides are created mainly by the pull of the moon, and therefore, they follow the moon. Since the moon rises in the east, and then appears to travel west (as the earth rotates), tides move in the same direction (from east, to west). Therefore, west-moving “approaching tides” hit our eastern coastline, on the Atlantic, with momentum and inertia they build up while crossing the Atlantic. By contrast, when the moon passes over America’s west-facing Pacific coastline, its gravity can only begin pulling on water that is already sitting next to that west-facing coast. That does not allow the water to build up the type of momentum that would push even more water up against that coastline. Similarly, places like New Orleans and Houston, on the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, also have king tides, but they are not as strong (compared to normal high tides) as they are along the Atlantic coast.
None of the above needs to be remembered (or even known) by anyone who wants to ask a candidate for Congress (or a climate change denier) a pointed question about the undeniable problems described below, which are getting worse every year, and which have now begun to get even worse, even faster.
– END OF DIGRESSION; RETURN TO DISCUSSION OF FRIGHTENING RESULT –
In southern Florida, numerous neighborhoods in and around Miami initially were built on what was, at the time, reliably and constantly dry ground (except when it was raining), even during king tides. Some people might try to quibble with that claim, but it is just basic straight-forward common sense and history; it pretty much had to be that way, when any such neighborhood was being built, in order to sell the homes, shops, and other buildings in those neighborhoods.
However, during the decades since those neighborhoods were initially built, sea levels have risen, to a point where, during “king tides” (which – as noted above – occur several times, predictably and reliably, each and every year), salt water will flood the streets of those neighborhoods – to a point where it will now rise up over the ankles of anyone standing on one of the affected streets, in large and growing numbers of those neighborhoods. If anyone doubts that assertion, do a quick internet search to combine “Miami” with “king tide”. If you do, you will find that, among other things, the Miami newspapers announce, in advance, what days the king tides will occur, and on those days, things like special parking laws and permits take effect.
Or if, for some reason, you don’t like Miami, or if you think it is being singled out unfairly, combine “king tide” with Annapolis, or Boston, or any other city on the Atlantic coast; or, just combine “king tides” with “Atlantic”, in a search. A good summary for laypersons is a Washington Post article entitled, `King tides, boosted by sea-level rise, are flooding communities along the East Coast’, is at washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/10/20/king-tides-east-coast
So . . . although the several-times-every-year flooding problems caused by “king tides” rarely get attention outside the cities affected by them, the undeniable fact is that America has reached a point where sea level rise is already causing serious flooding, and flood damage, repeatedly, every year, all along the Atlantic coast. And, anyone who knows what is happening, and why, can predict – not just with confidence, but with total certainty – that those problems will grow larger, and more damaging, in the coming decades. That prediction can be made with the same level of certainty as a prediction that if someone throws something heavy up into the air, on any day next week, it will come down again . . . on that very same day!
Personally, I would propose that any member of Congress who votes against measures to limit global warming, should be required to take a bus-ride to Annapolis (which is only about 30 miles from D.C.), on a day when a king tide is predicted, and they should be required to stand on one of its coastal streets, while that tide peaks. And, while doing so, they should be required to wear their best, fanciest, most beautiful and expensive shoes.
Or, as an alternative, perhaps members of Congress who actually want to help control global warming, should take that trip, voluntarily, with TV cameras along for the ride. And, if they do that, they should get to wear any shoes or sandals they choose.
The point that needs to be made, is this: it will NOT help change the outcomes of any elections, in ways which might help send more “climate literates” to Congress, if people try to argue about millimeters. Why not? Two reasons:
(i) Because millimeters are just too dang small, in the minds of nearly all voters; and,
(ii) most voters in America are far more used to, and comfortable with the “English” system of measurements (feet, inches, yards, miles, etc.), than the metric system; and, therefore, they tend to become resentful, and they start feeling like someone has shifted into a condescending mode, if that person begins trying to lecture them with (or about) metric numbers.
What would help, instead, is if national news outlets begin showing pictures – several times, every year, choosing the maximum tide dates for each of several cities along the Atlantic – which will show people standing in a salt water flood, up to their ankles, not because of any rain nearby, but because of a normal, regular, and predictable tide which will indeed happen, in each and every affected city, several times each year, every year, from now on, for all time into the future.
As another brief aside about metric measurements, climate advocates should stop referring to degrees CELSIUS, when talking about weather or climate temperatures. Instead, we should make a concerted effort to change the “Fahrenheit” scale of temperatures, into a better phrase, such as “the weather scale”. Fahrenheit was a German scientist and artisan, who made the first mercury-in-glass thermometers that were good enough to be consistent, and reproducible. Although there are conflicting versions of the exact series of steps he used to create his temperature scale, a widely-accepted version is that, when he had reached a level of quality he was comfortable with, he took his thermometers, hung them outside, and made a mark on the backing boards which supported and held the glass-tube thermometers, showing the highest temperature that the air (in the shade) reached, on a hot day in his town (which was Danzig, Germany, at the time; it is now Gdansk, Poland). He apparently tried to do the same thing, to also mark the lowest temperature that was reached during the winter, but that attempt became so arduous, painful, and inconvenient that he shifted his focus, and began experimenting with mixtures of brine (i.e. water with at least as much salt as sea water, and often more), ice, and ammonium chloride (a different type of salt, which could depress the freezing point of water even more, to a point where it approximated the coldest temperatures he previously had measured outside, on the coldest days of the year). He then set THAT temperature as the zero point, in his scale.
As a result, Fahrenheit created a very good, very functional, and readily understandable (by pretty much anyone) WEATHER scale. Every American knows – to a point where it is almost instinctive by now, and needs no explanation – that when it gets to be 100 degrees – which does indeed happen in the U.S., quite commonly, in lots of places, during the summer – then it is so darn hot outside that it is dangerous to go out into that kind of heat, except to go swimming, or play in the sprinkler.
And, every American also knows, almost instinctively, that when it gets down to zero degrees – which does indeed happen in the US, in lots of places, during the winter – then it is pretty darn cold, and one had better be dressed in not just one but several layers, if they go outside.
By contrast, most American voters just get fed up, and disgusted, with having to do mental calculations, to try to convert . . . umm . . . well . . . is it degrees CELSIUS? Or, is it degrees CENTIGRADE? Most American voters do not know or remember even THAT. So, they find that whole mess confusing, and irritating. They will respond better, to speakers and candidates who talk about temperatures in the Fahrenheit scale. And, they would respond even better than that, if we could somehow shift that name over to something like, “the weather scale”, which accurately reflects how and why it was created, and what it does best.