The concentration of human-produced gases that are driving climate change and sea level rise reached record highs in 2021 and that’s bad news on several fronts, according to the State of the Climate Report issued this week by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The data presented here in this report are clear — we continue to see more compelling scientific evidence that climate change has global impacts and shows no sign of slowing,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA’s Administrator, in an article posted on the agency’s website. “With many communities hit with 1,000 year floods, exceptional drought and historic heat this year, it shows that the climate crisis is not a future threat but something we must address today as we work to build a Climate-Ready Nation — and world — that is resilient to climate-driven extremes.”
Among the report’s notable finding:
- Earth’s greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — were the highest on record, with carbon dioxide reaching levels not seen in a million years.
- The Earth continues to warm, with 2021 being the sixth warmest year on record and the last seven years being the warmest ever recorded since measurements began being taken in the latter part of the 1880s.
- Ocean heat content reached a new high in 2021, which is especially troublesome since 50 percent of sea level rise is due to the expansion of the ocean as the water heats up.
- For the tenth year in a row, global average sea level rose to a new record.
NOAA released the 32nd annual State of the Climate Report with the hope that the data will be used to spur the world into action and reduce the amount of fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — burned around the world. The United Nations has been warning for years that nations must curtail greenhouse gas emissions or we will face global catastrophe. “The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet & placing billions of people in danger,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted last year. “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. We must act decisively now to avert a climate catastrophe.”
Coastal communities and real estate owners in the U.S. are already spending billions of dollars to address coastal flooding due to sea level rise. Every year the world doesn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions will add to the cost and destruction of property and the environment.
For the third year in a row, global ocean temperature was the hottest on record in 2021, according to a study published today in the Journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. Furthermore, the past five years have seen the hottest ocean temperature in over 60 years.
The increase in ocean temperature is tracking ever higher temperatures recorded on land and in the atmosphere. Scientists blame humans burning fossil fuels — such as coal, oil and natural gas — for the global warming that started during the Industrial Revolution.
As ocean water heats up, it expands. Experts credit 1/3 of sea level rise to expansion. The rest is due to glacier melt running off into the sea.
In addition to sea level rise flooding, warmer ocean water threatens coastal real estate by increasing glacier melt and by fueling stronger tropical storms and hurricanes and more intense rainfall events. It also threatens to contaminate fresh water supplies through saltwater intrusion.
Kevin Trenberth, a study author and scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric research in Colorado, told CNN: “To stop this (trend), we really need to get to net-zero (emissions), and many countries have plans but not enough actions to support those. In the meantime, we must prepare better and build resilience.”
“Changes to engineering design, building codes, and modifications to coastal development plans are recommended in anticipation of increased sea levels and increases in extreme precipitation events, which are already being observed,” according to the study.
Researchers released a report this week that concluded that the ocean temperature hit a new record last year. This is a problem for all of us. The world’s oceans store 90 percent of the heat generated from global warming.
The 2019 record isn’t a one-off either. It’s part of a disturbing trend. The researchers reported that the oceans were the warmest ever over the last 10 years.
Hotter oceans contribute to the warming of the atmosphere and land on a global scale. As a result, we will continue to see more extreme weather, including wildfires, droughts and stronger tropical storms and hurricanes. Sea life is also being harmed.
Hotter oceans are also intensifying and accelerating the two major drivers of sea level rise flooding. Land-based ice sheets will continue to melt faster, sending more runoff into the oceans. And the oceans themselves will continue to expand as they heat up.
Scientists have been calling for anywhere from three-to-six feet of sea level rise by 2100. A foot or two of that total could be on our doorsteps by 2050.
Coastal communities are already struggling to protect lives and real estate with the foot or so of sea level rise that has accumulated since 1900. Many already need hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to defend roads and other critical infrastructure. With funding in short supply, many communities are putting off these critical projects, which puts lives and property at risk.
When you combine the ocean heating analysis, published in the journal Advances In Atmospheric Sciences, with reports that have found accelerating atmospheric temperatures — 2019 was the second hottest on record for the globe — it’s clear that buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents need to start taking sea level rise flooding seriously when they’re dealing with coastal real estate.