Rising Sea, Eating Cities?

During the question/answer segment of my Arctic Cold War talk at the 24C3, alot of people raised tough and specific questions about the Arctic conflict and the facts I used to illustrate the dangers of both military build up and the melting of the arctic. One particular question came from international man of mystery Dan Kaminsky who asked me about data that indicates melting arctic ice is contributing to rising sea levels putting many coastal cities at great risk in the next decade.

As often happens during my talks and virtually any story I tell in everyday life, I may exaggerate my examples, and in the talk I said that most of the arctic ice would be melted by 2015. I also said that ocean levels would rise at an even greater pace and cities like Amsterdam and New York would find themselves in great danger. Dan seemed concerned at the immediacy that such cities would be swallowed up by water, so when he asked me again about it, I calmed down a bit and said, more accurately, that coastal cities would see an increasing rate of rising water levels, so technically some millimeters per year.

Since then I’ve had a chance to examine further that particular phenomenon, and double check what the hell I was saying. Here’s what I’ve figured out:

  • Ice melting (over land) in places like Greenland (glaciers) and polar ice caps is a cause of accelerated ocean level rise.
  • By 2015 the arctic ice cover in the summer is predicted to be completely gone.
  • According to most measurements I find, the average global sea level rise in the 20th century is around 1.2 mm per year.
  • However the average yearly rate since 1992, according to specialized satellite data is 2.8mm.
  • If we look specifically at the case of New York City, where the sea level has been rising .03 meters (11 inches) per decade, NY State emergency management models indicate that by 2050, the level will rise between 15 and 19 inches. (38 cm or more)
  • By 2080 the level will have risen by more than 3 ft! (.9 m)

So although I know Dan is not a regular reader of this blog, now I have more detailed information about just how bad the rising ocean levels are getting and what it means for a city like New York. Next time you’re in the Large Apple, stand at the east river, look down and picture that water 1 meter higher.