Sunday, June 24, 2012

Deep Water

One of the consequences of the current global warming is rising sea level. Recent evidence suggests that the rise will not be evenly distributed. In North Carolina, though, where some of the fastest rise has been seen, property owners, or at any rate, property developers, are protected by the wise actions of the State legislature, which has voted that global warming doesn't exist. It has the marks of a classic legal showdown: *epithet deleted* politicians vs. thermodynamics.

From Cape Hatteras, N.C., to just north of Boston, sea levels are rising much faster than they are around the globe, putting one of the world's most costly coasts in danger of flooding, government researchers report.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists call the 600-mile swath a "hot spot" for climbing sea levels caused by global warming. Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average since 1990, according to the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It's not just a faster rate, but at a faster pace, like a car on a highway "jamming on the accelerator," said the study's lead author, Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the agency. He looked at sea levels starting in 1950, and noticed a change beginning in 1990.

Since then, sea levels have gone up globally about 2 inches. But in Norfolk, Va., where officials are scrambling to fight more frequent flooding, sea level has jumped a total of 4.8 inches, the research showed. For Philadelphia, levels went up 3.7 inches, and in New York City, it was 2.8 inches.

The observed pattern was predicted by climate models, and is due to dynamic effects on ocean currents plus perhaps some differential warming.