The Siberian Town that Broke 100 Degrees & You

On Saturday, June 20, the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk located above the Arctic Circle hit a scorching, all-time record high of 100.4 degrees. What’s that have to do with those of us who live thousands of miles away in the U.S.? As residents of the same planet, a lot.

First, the record is a sure sign that the simple science behind climate change, read global warming, is on the mark. It goes like this: We burn fossil fuels (think oil, gasoline, coal), greenhouse gases — most notably carbon dioxide — accumulate in the atmosphere, the greenhouse gases trap radiation from the sun in the atmosphere, and the atmosphere, ocean and land heat up.

Second, the heating of northern climes isn’t just a matter of extreme summer weather. Under the spell of the sun that never sets this time of year up there, the land surface heats up and permafrost begins to melt. As it melts, methane, a more potent but not as long-lasting greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere, leading to even more warming. The feedback cycle generates more and more melt and more and more methane release.

We’re not done with second point yet. The heating of the northern climes also leads to the normally damp land drying out, which results in forest fires. The fires pose at least two threats: They release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — accelerating global warming — and the soot can settle on snow and ice fields. There, the dark soot absorbs solar radiation which result in faster melting. The water pours into the ocean contributing to sea level rise. Scientists witnessed this dynamic when wildfires in Canada coated Greenland’s ice sheet in soot and melting occurred at a faster rate.

Third, the global warming-driven record high temperatures in Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and other high latitude locations can alter weather patterns. Specifically, they can cause a buildup of high pressure areas that stall the jet stream, which normally keeps weather systems moving from west to east. When they stall, they, too, can heat up. This is contributing to the seemingly never-ending series of monthly high temperature records being set around the globe.

So, what’s all this have to do with you (us)? Record heat above the Arctic Circle is clearly a warning sign that the climate is changing more rapidly than many scientists anticipated. We have pumped more carbon into the atmosphere than has been recorded in millions of years. As a result, there is the very real risk that high temperatures now considered unusual will soon become the norm while extreme high temperatures become, well, more extreme. This cycle could accelerate to the point where, quite frankly, parts of the planet could become inhospitable to human life.

The reality of rapid global warming already poses a threat to millions of people who live in coastal areas. Many of us reside in cities and towns that are already experiencing sea level rise flooding or will likely experience it in the coming years. If the planet warms faster than expected, it’s likely that the rapid melt Greenland experienced due to extremely high temperatures last summer will become the norm. The warming could also cause the Arctic ice sheet, the other major contributor to higher seas, to become further destabilized as floating ice sheets that hold back inland glaciers break off the continent. If enough sea ice vanishes, inland glaciers could become uncorked and rush from land into the sea. The combination of melt in Greenland and a river of Arctic glaciers spilling into the ocean could lead to seas rising much faster than predicted when many locations are already struggling with the foot or so of sea level rise that’s been recorded in the last hundred or so years.

The bottom line for you (us) is global warming is fact. The heating we’re now witnessing and its consequences was anticipated decades ago by the majority of climate scientists. The only real X-factors are how much fossil fuels we’ll burn in the years to come and exactly how fast they’ll warm the atmosphere, ocean and land.

So where does this leave you (us)? Science says the only way to stop the dangerous global warming feedback loop is for humans to burn less fossil fuels. It’s that simple. To achieve this objective, we need to elect leaders who are dedicated to the cause and give our business to companies that help us to trade fossil fuels for environmentally-friendly energy sources.

If we fail to cut back on releasing carbon into the atmosphere, the tiny town in Siberia will prove to be the canary in the coal mine none of the miners listened to.

Antarctica and Greenland Ice Melt Raised Sea Levels a Half Inch In the Last 16 Years — NASA Report

NASA scientists crunched data from satellite missions to determine that ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland over the last 16 years raised sea levels about half an inch. Put another way, the researchers said both locations contributed 5,000 gigatons of water to the oceans which is enough to fill Lake Michigan.

Ice melt and ocean expansion due to global warming are the primary contributors to sea level rise. Experts are concerned that the rate of melting is picking up pace. Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the University of California-San Diego, told National Public Radio, “How much ice we are going to lose, and how quickly we are going to lose it, is a really key thing that needs to be understood, so that we can plan.”

There are two main forces driving the melting in Antarctica and Greenland. In Antarctica, warming oceans are melting floating ice shelves, which is allowing land based ice to flow into the ocean. In Greenland, warmer atmospheric temperatures are melting ice and creating run-off. At the same time, the warmer air is also causing glacial ice to calve off and fall into the ocean.

If all the ice melted in Greenland alone, scientists estimate global sea levels would rise 23 feet. Fricker told NPR, “There’s a lot of infrastructure and airports and people that live right on the ocean, and these people are going to feel the effects of sea level rise that’s resulted because the ice sheets have melted.”

Rapid Retreat of an Antarctic Glacier Could Lead to Rapid Sea Level Rise

An Antarctic glacier has retreated nearly 3 miles in 22 years, and scientists worry that the rapid retreat could lead to climate-driven collapse.

Researchers studying radar data recorded by a satellite say the Denman Glacier in East Antarctica has been experiencing rapid melting. The pace could speed up even more if the glacier’s western slope, which has a deep trough and slope shape that makes it susceptible to rapid retreat, comes into play. If the whole glacier were to collapse into the sea, worldwide sea levels would rise by up to five feet.

Eric Rignot, a study co-author and scientist at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), told UCI News, “The ice in West Antarctica has been melting faster in recent years, but the sheer size of Denman Glacier means its potential impact on long-term sea level rise is just as significant.”

The researchers, whose study was published in Geophysical Research Letters, will continue to monitor the glacier.

NASA: Greenland and Antarctica Ice Melt Speeding Up Sea Level Rise

NASA reported this week that Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s, a development that could have a severe impact on coastal real estate.

NASA scientists published their statement on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website in response to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that showed Greenland and Antarctica combined lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three decades. “Unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100,” according to NASA.

Researchers used observations from 11 satellite’s that monitor Greenland and Antarctica ice loss to arrive at their disturbing conclusion. They calculate that the meltwater has raised global sea level by .7 inches. This doesn’t sound like much, but it can have a significant effect on coastal populations. “Every centimeter of sea level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet,” said Prof. Andrew Shepherd, a scientist at the University of Leeds.

Ice melt isn’t the only factor fueling sea level rise. Ocean heating and expansion and the melting of smaller land-based glaciers also contribute to higher seas.

Coastal Real Estate in Greater Peril as Antarctic and Greenland Ice-Melt Follows Worst Case Scenario

One of the major questions for coastal governments and real estate owners is: How fast will sea level rise flooding advance? According to the latest analysis by the United Nation’s Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the answer is: Likely a lot sooner than we’d hoped.

IPCC scientists analyzed data from Antarctica and Greenland and determined that land-based ice and snow are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s. This is in line with the group’s worst-case scenario.

At this pace of melting, IPCC experts estimate the oceans will rise nearly 7 extra inches over the 21 inches (1.75 feet) they’ve set as their mid-range global sea level rise prediction for the end of the century. That’s a total of 2 1/4 feet of sea level rise.

Andrew Shepherd, a professor of Earth Observations at the University of Leeds, told the Guardian newspaper that if sea levels rise as predicted in the latest estimate, 400 million people will be impacted by coastal flooding; that’s up from 360 million people earlier predicted. “These are not unlikely events with small impacts,” he told the paper. “They are already under way and will be devastating for coastal communities.”

Land-based ice and snow melting in Greenland and Antarctic contribute about a third of the global sea level rise total. The rest comes from expansion of the oceans as they warm and runoff from smaller glaciers.

Greenland and Antarctica seem like a long way away, but their meltwaters could ultimately decide the fate of billions of dollars worth of coastal real estate. To make informed decisions, property owners in at-risk areas need to keep up to date on the pace of ice and snow melt and the stability of their glaciers.

Why Coastal Real Estate Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Realtors Should Be Concerned About an Iceberg that Just Broke Off Antarctica

It’s well established that climate change — global warming — is causing glaciers to melt at an ever-quickening pace in Antarctica and Greenland. As a result, sea levels too are rising at a faster rate every year.

The challenge for scientists gathering the data government officials, planners and buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents in coastal cities need to make informed decisions in response to the rising waters is that there is more than glacial melting that can cause sea level to rise. The warming atmosphere and oceans are also eating away at ice shelves floating on the ocean that are the only barriers holding back inland glaciers that, if uncorked by the loss of the floating ice shelves, could raise sea levels not just by inches but by feet.

This point was illustrated today when satellite data showed sometime between February 8 and 9 an iceberg twice the size of Washington, DC, broke off the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. The enormous iceberg itself won’t directly affect sea level rise. Floating ice already displaces a volume of water equal to the amount of water that runs off into the ocean as it melts.

The concern is that this calving event, the latest in increasingly frequent calving events, is another step in glacial retreat that could clear the way for an enormous amount of inland ice to flow into the sea, which would speed up sea level rise. In fact, if inland ice associated with the Pine Island Glacier and nearby Thwaites Glacier were free to flow into the sea, global sea levels could rise by as many as four feet.

Scientists don’t expect The Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier to slide into the sea tomorrow, but they’re still gathering the data they need to estimate when it could happen. With communities all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines already spending billions of dollars to combat sea level rise flooding, buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents need to keep up on the latest developments in Antarctica and Greenland as if they were local stories. Ultimately, they are.

(The photo from the European Space Agency shows cracks forming on the ice shelf of the Pine Island Glacier in September 2019.)

Record Temperatures in Antarctica May Signal More Rapid Sea Level Rise

A weather station in Antarctica recorded the hottest temperature ever reached on Earth’s southern-most continent. Scientists at Argentina’s Esperanza research station on the Antarctic Peninsula said the temperature hit 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Randall Cerveny, an official with the World Meteorological Organization, told National Public Radio, “This is unfortunately a continuing trend.” The station set the just-broken heat record in 2015. Cerveny added, “We are seeing these high temperature records — not only in Antarctica, but across the entire world — fall, whereas we just don’t see cold temperature records anymore.”

The last decade was the hottest ever recorded. Researchers are concerned that this is setting up a positive feedback loop where the warmer weather warms seawater which melts glaciers which causes even more warming. The end result is that the seas rise at an ever quickening pace, which puts more coastal areas at risk of flooding.

Melting glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are the greatest contributors to sea level rise. Scientists worry that instability in the ice sheets due to global warming could lead to a massive release of ice and meltwater into the oceans. They’re working to understand the many ways warm air and seawater are impacting the glaciers. Their findings will help buyers and owners to decide where it’s safe to invest in coastal real estate.

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