U.S. approaching ‘tipping points’ for sea level rise-related flooding earlier than expected | AGU Newsroom

SAN FRANCISCO –By 2050, a majority of U.S. coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year due to dramatically accelerating impacts from sea level rise, according to a study published today in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Annapolis, Maryland, pictured here in 2012, is one of three major East Coast urban areas already being faced with nuisance flooding in excess of 30 days per year. Credit: Amy McGovern

The new study establishes a frequency-based benchmark for what the authors call “tipping points” for when so-called nuisance flooding—flooding between 0.3 to 0.6 meters (one to two feet) above local high tide—occurs 30 or more times a year. The study used a 0.5 to 1.2 meters (1.5 to four foot) set of recent projections for global sea level rise by year 2100 similar to the rise projections of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, but also accounting for local factors such as the settlement of land, known as subsidence.

Based on that standard, the team found that these tipping points will be met or exceeded by 2050 at most of the U.S. coastal areas studied, regardless of sea level rise likely to occur this century.According to the study authors,these regional tipping points will be surpassed in the coming decades in areas with more frequent storms, or areas where local sea levels rise more than the standard global projection of 0.5 to 1.2 meters (1.5 to four feet). This also includes coastal areas like Louisiana where subsidence is causing land to sink below sea level.

The new study, presented at a press conference today at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, used data from NOAA tide gauges to show the annual rate of daily nuisance floods has drastically increased, even accelerating in recent years. This type of flooding is now five to 10 times more likely today than 50 years ago.

“Coastal communities are beginning to experience sunny-day nuisance or urban flooding, much more so than in decades past,” said William Sweet, oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) in Silver Spring, Maryland, and lead author on the study. “This is sea level rise. Unfortunately, once impacts are noticed, they will become commonplace rather quickly.  We find that in 30-40 years even modest projections of global sea level rise – 1.5 feet by 2100 – will increase instances of daily high tide flooding to a point requiring an active, and potentially costly, response and by the end of this century, our projections show that there will be near-daily nuisance flooding in most of the locations that we reviewed.”

The scientists base the projections on NOAA tidal stations where there is a 50-year or greater continuous record. The study does not include the Miami area, as the NOAA tide stations in the area were destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and a continuous 50-year data set for the area does not exist.

Based on that criteria, the NOAA team is projecting that Boston; New York City; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Norfolk, Virginia; and Wilmington, North Carolina; all along the Mid-Atlantic coast, will soon make, or are already being forced to make, decisions on how to mitigate these nuisance floods earlier than planned. In the Gulf, NOAA forecasts earlier than anticipated floods for Galveston Bay and Port Isabel, Texas.  Along the Pacific coast the earlier impacts will be most visible in the San Diego/La Jolla and San Francisco Bay areas.

Mitigation decisions could range from retreating further inland to coastal fortification or to a combination of “green” infrastructure using both natural resources such as dunes and wetland, along with “gray” man-made infrastructure such as sea walls and redesigned storm water systems.

“As communities across the country become increasingly vulnerable to water inundation and flooding, effective risk management is going to become more heavily reliant on environmental data and analysis,” noted Holly Bamford, NOAA acting assistant secretary for conservation and management.  “Businesses, coastal managers, federal, state, and local governments, and non-governmental organizations can use research such as this as another tool as they develop plans to reduce vulnerabilities, adapt to change, and ensure they’re resilient against future events.”

“The importance of this research is that it draws attention to the largely neglected part of the frequency of these events. This frequency distribution includes a hazard level referred to as ‘nuisance’: occasionally costly to clean up, but never catastrophic or perhaps newsworthy,” said Earth’s Future editor Michael Ellis, Head of Climate Change Science at the British Geological Survey in Nottingham, United Kingdom, in accepting the paper for the online journal.

Ellis also observed that “the authors use observational data to drive home the important point that nuisance floods (from inundating seas) will cross a tipping point over the next several decades and significantly earlier than the 2100 date that is generally regarded as a target date for damaging levels of sea-level. The paper also raises the interesting question of what frequency of ‘nuisance’ corresponds to a perception of ‘this is no longer a nuisance but a serious hazard due to its rapidly growing and cumulative impacts’.”

via U.S. approaching ‘tipping points’ for sea level rise-related flooding earlier than expected | AGU Newsroom.

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

via Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

NewsDaily: Bosnia says 1 million affected by floods, destruction “terrifying”

Bosnia says 1 million affected by floods, destruction “terrifying”

MONDAY MAY 19, 2014  |  DARIA SITO-SUCIC, MARKO DJURICA FOR REUTERS

A car is seen stranded in the flooded town of Obrenovac

Credit: © Antonio Bronic / Reuters/Reuters

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MAGLAJ Bosnia/KRUPANJ Serbia (Reuters) – More than a quarter of Bosnia’s four million people have been affected by the worst floods to hit the Balkans in more than a century, the government said on Monday, warning of “terrifying” destruction comparable to the country’s 1992-95 war.

The floods extended across Serbia and Bosnia, where receding waters in some of the worst-hit areas are now revealing the extent of the devastation. Homes have been toppled or submerged in mud, trees felled and villages strewn with the rotting corpses of livestock.

“The consequences of the floods are terrifying,” Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija told a news conference. “The physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war.” He said more than 100,000 houses and other buildings were no longer usable. “During the war, many people lost everything,” he said. “Today, again they have nothing.”

More than a million people in Bosnia were been cut off from clean water supplies, Lagumdzija said, after torrential rains caused rivers to burst their banks and triggered more than 2,000 landslides.

The discovery of a body in northern Bosnia on Monday raised the regional death toll to at least 38, but the figure was likely to rise further.

Even as the crisis eased in some areas, a new flood wave from the swollen River Sava threatened others, notably Serbia’s largest power plant, the Nikola Tesla complex, 30 km (18 miles) southwest of the capital, Belgrade.

In Bosnia, one official said as many as 500,000 people had been evacuated or left their homes, the kind of human displacement not seen since more than a million were driven out by ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war two decades ago. At least 25,000 people have been evacuated in Serbia.

“We have some indications that a half a million Bosnians have either been evacuated or have left their homes because of flooding or landslides,” said Fahrudin Solak, the acting head of the civil defence service in Bosnia’s autonomous Federation.

Communities in both countries continued to stack sandbags and dig trenches to protect towns from flooding triggered by the heaviest rainfall in the Balkans since records began 120 years ago.

OUT OF THEIR HANDS

Soldiers and energy workers worked through the night to build barriers of sandbags to keep the water back from Serbia’s Nikola Tesla energy complex and from a second site, the Kostolac coal-fired plant, east of Belgrade.

Hundreds of volunteers in the capital filled sandbags and stacked them along the banks of Sava. Police issued an appeal for more bags.

Djina Trisovic, a union spokeswoman at Serbia’s EPS power utility, said some workers at the Nikola Tesla plant had worked three days with barely a break because their relief teams could not reach the plant.

“The plant should be safe now,” she told Reuters. “We’ve done all we could. Now it’s in the hands of God.”

The plant provides roughly half of Serbia’s electricity. Parts were already shut down as a precaution, and it would have to be powered down completely if the waters breached the defenses.

Other EPS officials also said they believed the plant was out of danger, but there was concern for the Kolubara coal mine that supplies it. Power utilities in Bosnia and Macedonia said they had jointly provided 260 megawatts (MW) of power to Serbia to help it cope with shortages.

Authorities in Bosnia issued a fresh warning about the danger of landmines left over from the war and now dislodged by the flooding. The Centre for the Removal of Landmines appealed for international help in securing equipment and satellite screening to monitor minefields.

In the north Bosnian town of Maglaj, barely a single house was left untouched by the waters, which receded to leave a trail of mud and debris. “It was totally submerged for two days,” said its mayor, Mehmet Mustabasic. “It will take years, even decades, for Maglaj to get back to how it was.”

In Krupanj in western Serbia, a woman wept on the remains of her destroyed house. Several other homes had tilted into the swollen river, mud and tree branches driven through walls and windows by the force of a landslide.

(Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac and Matt Robinson in Belgrade, Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo, Igor Ilic and Zoran Radosavljevic in Zagreb; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Larry King)

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via NewsDaily: Bosnia says 1 million affected by floods, destruction “terrifying”.