Climate Change Is Breaking Open America’s Nuclear Tomb

Climate Change Is Breaking Open America’s Nuclear Tomb

SOURCE: LA Times DATE: November 10, 2019 SNIP: Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in and above the Marshall Islands — vaporizing whole islands, carving craters into its shallow lagoons and exiling hundreds of people from their homes. U.S. authorities later cleaned up contaminated soil on Enewetak Atoll, where the United States not only detonated the bulk of its weapons tests but, as The Times has learned, also conducted a dozen biological weapons tests and dumped 130 tons of soil from an irradiated Nevada testing site. It then deposited the atoll’s most lethal debris and soil into the dome. Now the concrete coffin, which locals call “the Tomb,” is at risk of collapsing from rising seas and other effects of climate change. Tides are creeping up its sides, advancing higher every year as distant glaciers melt and ocean waters rise. The so-called Tomb now bobs with the tide, sucking in and flushing out radioactive water into nearby coral reefs, contaminating marine life. Officials in the Marshall Islands have lobbied the U.S. government for help, but American officials have declined, saying the dome is on Marshallese land and therefore the responsibility of the Marshallese government. “I’m like, how can it [the dome] be ours?” Hilda Heine, the president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said in an interview in her presidential office in September. “We don’t want it. We didn’t build it. The garbage inside is not ours. It’s theirs.” To many in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Runit Dome is the most visible manifestation of the United States’ nuclear legacy, a...
Scientists looked at sea levels 125,000 years in the past. The results are terrifying

Scientists looked at sea levels 125,000 years in the past. The results are terrifying

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: November 6, 2019 SNIP: Sea levels rose 10 metres above present levels during Earth’s last warm period 125,000 years ago, according to new research that offers a glimpse of what may happen under our current climate change trajectory. Our paper, published today in Nature Communications, shows that melting ice from Antarctica was the main driver of sea level rise in the last interglacial period, which lasted about 10,000 years. This research shows that Antarctica, long thought to be the “sleeping giant” of sea level rise, is actually a key player. Its ice sheets can change quickly, and in ways that could have huge implications for coastal communities and infrastructure in future. Earth’s cycles consist of both cold glacial periods – or ice ages – when large parts of the world are covered in large ice sheets, and warmer interglacial periods when the ice thaws and sea levels rise. The Earth is presently in an interglacial period which began about 10,000 years ago. But greenhouse gas emissions over the past 200 years have caused climate changes that are faster and more extreme than experienced during the last interglacial. This means past rates of sea level rise provide only low-end predictions of what might happen in future. We examined data from the last interglacial, which occurred 125,000 to 118,000 years ago. Temperatures were up to 1℃ higher than today – similar to those projected for the near future. Our research reveals that ice melt in the last interglacial period caused global seas to rise about 10 metres above the present level. The ice melted first in Antarctica,...
Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050

Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: October 29, 2019 SNIP: Rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought, according to new research, threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities. The authors of a paper published Tuesday developed a more accurate way of calculating land elevation based on satellite readings, a standard way of estimating the effects of sea level rise over large areas, and found that the previous numbers were far too optimistic. The new research shows that some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by midcentury. Southern Vietnam could all but disappear. The first map shows earlier expectations of submerged land by 2050. But the new outlook, the second map, indicates that the bottom part of the country will be underwater at high tide. More than 20 million people in Vietnam, almost one-quarter of the population, live on land that will be inundated. Much of Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s economic center, would disappear with it, according to the research, which was produced by Climate Central, a science organization based in New Jersey, and published in the journal Nature Communications. The projections don’t account for future population growth or land lost to coastal erosion. In Thailand, more than 10 percent of citizens now live on land that is likely to be inundated by 2050, compared with just 1 percent according to the earlier technique. The political and commercial capital, Bangkok, is particularly imperiled. Climate change will put pressure on cities in multiple ways, said Loretta Hieber Girardet, a Bangkok...
Rising Seas Aren’t Even the Scariest Part of Climate Change in the Oceans

Rising Seas Aren’t Even the Scariest Part of Climate Change in the Oceans

SOURCE: Mother Jones DATE: September 25, 2019 SNIP: Climate change has already taken an irreversible toll on our oceans and frozen places, warns a major new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much of the carbon pollution we’ve pumped into the air has gone directly into the world’s seas: They have absorbed 90 percent of the excess heat from the atmosphere, warming without pause for the past 50 years. Because oceans are so unfathomably big and complex—covering two-thirds of Earth’s surface—that warming has consequences for the entire planet. The IPCC Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere In A Changing Climate is a collaboration among 130 scientists around the world who have assembled data from more than 7,000 papers. The new report manages to paint an even bleaker picture, showing that the oceans have been expanding, acidifying, and losing oxygen at an accelerated rate. One major takeaway from the report: The seas are rising twice as fast as twentieth century averages. The ocean is also heating up twice as fast, absorbing more carbon and acidifying. “The rate of climate change has actually gone up,” lead author of the report’s chapter on oceans, Nate Bindoff of the University of Tasmania, said in a call with reporters. This acceleration of warming and acidification means a cascade of impacts on weather and marine life, such as coral reefs, some of which we still don’t fully understand. The IPCC looks at a range of possible climate-change scenarios, from unabated pollution to dramatic reforms in the next decade. Right now, though, the world is on the most dangerous warming path. Our...
Greenland’s Growing “Ice Slabs” Intensify Meltwater Runoff into Ocean

Greenland’s Growing “Ice Slabs” Intensify Meltwater Runoff into Ocean

SOURCE: CIRES DATE: September 18, 2019 SNIP: Thick, impenetrable ice slabs are expanding rapidly on the interior of Greenland’s ice sheet, where the ice is normally porous and able to reabsorb meltwater. These slabs are instead sending meltwater spilling into the ocean, according to a new CIRES-led assessment, threatening to increase the country’s contribution to sea level rise by as much as 2.9 inches by 2100. Although runoff from ice slabs has added less than a millimeter to global sea levels so far, this contribution will grow substantially as ice slabs continue to expand in a warming climate, said Mike MacFerrin, a CIRES and University of Colorado Boulder researcher who led the new study, published today in Nature. “Even under moderate climate projections, ice slabs could double the size of the runoff zone by 2100,” MacFerrin said. “Under higher emissions scenarios, the runoff zone nearly triples in size.” “As the climate continues to warm, these ice slabs will continue to grow and enhance other meltwater feedbacks,” said Mahsa Moussavi, NSIDC researcher and a coauthor on the paper. “It’s a snowball effect: more melting creates more ice slabs, which create more melting, which, creates again more ice slabs.” This process fundamentally alters the ice sheet’s present and future hydrology. Arctic feedbacks like this are critical to understand because they show just how much, and how quickly, a warming climate can change Earth’s most vulnerable...