August 2009 Archives

From the BBC's: David Shukman

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago, according to research seen by the BBC.

A study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year.

Since 1994, the glacier has lowered by as much as 90m, which has serious implications for sea-level rise.

The work by British scientists appears in Geophysical Research Letters.

The team was led by Professor Duncan Wingham of University College London (UCL).

We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier
Andrew Shepherd, Leeds University

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

The rate of loss is fastest in the centre of the glacier and the concern is that if the process continues, the glacier may break up and start to affect the ice sheet further inland.

One of the authors, Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said that the melting from the centre of the glacier would add about 3cm to global sea level.

"But the ice trapped behind it is about 20-30cm of sea level rise and as soon as we destabilise or remove the middle of the glacier we don't know really know what's going to happen to the ice behind it," he told BBC News.

"This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier."

Satellite image of glacier
The highlighted area shows a dense concentration of crevasses along one edge of the glacier. Large numbers of deep crevasses are a sign that parts of the glacier are moving rapidly.....

Professor Box told BBC News: "The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It's like removing a cork from a bottle."

From: Sydney Morning Herald

Brendan Nicholson and Hamish McDonald in Cairns
August 7, 2009

THE world has fallen well behind in the race to find a formula to deal with global warming in time for December's Copenhagen summit, regional leaders have warned.

After their two-day summit in Cairns, 15 Pacific Islands Forum leaders issued a statement saying the threat was grave and a strong global agreement was vital.

"With 122 days to go, the international community is not on track to achieve the outcome we need unless we see a renewed mandate across all participating nations," the leaders said.

Chaired by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the forum urged all nations to redouble their efforts to secure an agreement.

The leaders called for a program that would set the world on a path to limit the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees or less and to cut global emissions to at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The forum nations are part of the Alliance of Small Island States, 39 nations in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean that are likely to be the first - and worst - affected, by global warming.

The alliance was set up in 1990 to provide a voice for small nations, and it says that unless the increase in temperature is kept below 1.5 degrees the result will be disastrous for millions of people on those islands.

Grenada's representative to the United Nations and the alliance leader, Dessima Williams, told the Herald the impact on dozens of low-lying nations would be disastrous.

"We are going to have more devastation of all sorts from sea level rise and hurricanes," Ms Williams said.

"We are going to lose our jobs, our food supply.

"The world is going to see disruption that starts from the small island states. It will be disruption of every sort, more health problems, economic dislocation and more migration."

As well as the climate change plea, the 16 nations are to pool their experiences with energy sources including solar, wind and wave power generation, with Australia putting $25 million into the initiative.

The forum leaders also agreed to pursue common development strategies fostered by growth in the private sector, better state services and governance and investment in infrastructure, and to get aid-donating countries and organisations to co-ordinate their programs with these strategies.

The Pacific Island countries receive the highest amount of foreign aid in the developing world per capita, but Mr Rudd said many were not showing progress towards the Millennium goals of greater welfare by 2015 and some were regressing.

"It is a sobering fact that across our region some 2.7 million people are living in poverty," he said.

Governments in the Pacific were frustrated at the "spaghetti bowl" of aid programs, Mr Rudd said, with half of their officials "offshore running around in various programs being offered by dozens of competing and occasionally conflicting development assistance programs".

He hoped China would also align its aid programs in the Pacific - put at $US208 million ($247 million) in pledges last year.

Cross Posted from Rolph Payet's  Climate Change and Sea Level Rise 
From AP's

CAIRNS, Australia -- A group of tiny Pacific Island countries appealed to the world Wednesday to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent to help save them from rising seas.

The seven nations, whose coral atolls rise just a few yards (meters) above sea level, urged rich nations to make the cut in their polluting emissions by 2020.

"As you drive along the roads along the coast, you will see coconut trees in the water - that's an indication of the sea level rise" in Tuvalu, Prime Minister Edward Natapei told reporters Wednesday at the annual summit of South Pacific leaders. At least one village has been abandoned, he said.

The seven countries, part of the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum, said in a statement they are worried about the "serious and growing threat posed by climate change to the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being and security" of their populations.

read the entire article here

By Huffington Post's


SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Even if the world is successful in cutting carbon emissions in the future, California needs to start preparing for rising sea levels, hotter weather and other effects of climate change, a new state report recommends.

It encourages local communities to rethink future development in low-lying coastal areas, reinforce levees that protect flood-prone areas and conserve already strapped water supplies.

"We still have to adapt, no matter what we do, because of the nature of the greenhouse gases," said Tony Brunello, deputy secretary for climate change and energy at the California Natural Resources Agency, who helped prepare the report. "Those gases are still going to be in the atmosphere for the next 100 years."

The draft report to be released Monday by the California Natural Resources Agency provides the state's first comprehensive plan to work with local governments, universities and residents to deal with a changing climate. A final plan is expected to be released in the fall after the public weighs in......

To minimize the potential damage from climate change, the report recommends that cities and counties offer incentives to encourage property owners in high-risk areas to relocate and limit future development in places that might be affected by flooding, coastal erosion and sea level rise. State agencies also should not plan, permit, develop or build any structure that might require protection in the future.

Read the entire story here

De-classified photos reveal Arctic Ice retreat

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Photos from US spy satellites declassified by the Obama White House provide the first graphic images of how the polar ice sheets are retreating in the summer. The effects on the world's weather, environments and wildlife could be devastating
Satellite images of polar ice sheetsView larger picture

Satellite images of polar ice sheets taken in July 2006 and July 2007 showing the retreating ice during the summer. Photograph: Public Domain

Graphic images that reveal the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic have been released by the US military. The photographs, taken by spy satellites over the past decade, confirm that in recent years vast areas in high latitudes have lost their ice cover in summer months.

The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanise Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released - includes views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. One, taken in July 2006, shows sea ice still nestling close to the shore. A second image shows that by the following July the coastal waters were entirely ice-free.

Read the rest of this article in the Guardian

(by Suzanne Goldenberg and Damian Carrington)


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