How Deep Is the Ocean?

It’s about to be a bit deeper. A new report from Denmark says that ocean levels will rise considerably more than previously calculated.

Now, I realize that rising ocean levels are nothing but a liberal plot to do—something or other. But take a look at a couple of scanned snapshots I took while we were touristing in Charleston, SC in 1986, before we started worrying about global warming.

As we tourists were poking about town, we noticed that water was coming up through drains, and beginning to flood street level restaurants. Soon it was everywhere. It got maybe a foot deep in some of the residential sections.

The first shot is on Charleston harbor. The water, normally several feet lower, is sloshing over the boardwalk. You can see that buildings near the water are low.

The second shot is one of the residential streets several blocks from the waterfront. The entire street is under water about a foot deep.

This occurred because of what is known as a syzygy, which is an alignment of three celestial bodies, in this case, earth, the moon, and the sun. That made the tide unusually high. My guess is that it was two feet above the usual high tide, maybe three feet.

***

For reasons not well understood, the Arctic is the part of the world where global warming is most obvious. The infamous Northwest Passage, often sought but never found during the days of sailing ships, is now open for shipping vessels for part of the year.

Science Daily’s report (4 May 2011) of new findings of studies from Lund University, Copenhagen, show that the changes in Arctic climate are unequivocal and worse than previous studies suggested. Temperatures are the highest in 2000 years or more. Snow cover in May and June is reduced by nearly 20%. Winter is two weeks shorter.

Perhaps the most serious finding is that permafrost temperature has increased by about 2˚C. Increasing temperatures will release large amounts of trapped carbon dioxide and methane, as well as captured mercury. CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas, but methane is 20 times more damaging. Large percentages of permafrost in Canada and Alaska will melt, releasing their gasses. The permafrost holds about double the amount of these two gasses that are already in the atmosphere. If we are lucky, the increase of vegetation in newly exposed soil will absorb some of these gasses, but then again, it may not.

It is probable that the Arctic has entered a state of feedback, where changes already occurring are causing accelerating changes. For example, less snow cover means that less solar radiation is reflected back into space, and more heat is absorbed. That additional absorbed radiation causes still more warming, causing higher temps and less snow cover, etc. The reinforcing trend accelerates warming in an upward spiral.

This new report, the product of studies by some 200 scientists (a vast conspiracy, I suppose) over the past six years, suggest that by 2100 the water will rise an additional 3-5 feet.

Look again at my snapshots of Charleston. Remember, this is “normal”, although rare. First, just imagine that the syzygy tide of about two feet above normal high tide became the permanent level. Obviously, Charleston would have to make some serious changes. Next imagine that several feet above that is added. Now imagine what would happen with a hurricane like either Andrew or Katrina, in which a storm crest of ten feet or so comes inland.

Large areas of the United States are in low areas similar to Charleston. In the next few years we can expect to get hints of what that will mean as global temperatures rise.

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Published in: on 2011/05/06 at 8:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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