Friday, February 13, 2015

Stormy Arctic

I read an excerpt from a new book on storms in the Arctic and the all of the associated effects. It was an interesting read and really made some excellent points. The Arctic is warming and it is warming faster than any other region of the planet. The author, Edward Struzik, states
Between 1951 and 2012, for example, temperatures in the region exceeded the freezing point an average of 110 days. In 2010 and 2011, they did so 127 times. In 2012, the warmest year on record in the Arctic, it happened 134 times.

Over the past two decades, the number of ice-free days averaged 80 per year. In 2012, there were 96 ice-free days that significantly accelerated the erosion that is already taking place.

The results of that warming are not good. Animal species, plants, wet lands and coastline are disappearing. Communities are falling into the ocean. And, storms are getting worse.

Reductions in sea ice are making Arctic storms more frequent and more severe. This is happening a number of ways. Sea ice traps humidity but as the ice melts the open water fills the atmosphere with moisture and is doing so earlier every year. This moisture then fuels storms that normally wouldn't occur before the fall but are now happening during the summer months. Also, the ice cover keeps storm waves from getting too intense. Now, waves and storm surges are getting bigger as the ice disappears. Rising sea levels are causing storm surges to travel ever further inland. And, ultimately, ice would pile up on the coast and protect it from the storm action, but that protection is now disappearing and the results are grim.

Struzik tells of towns disappearing in the Arctic region as the coastline erodes away - slowly, initially but at increasing rates. Coastlines that were loosing fewer than 7 meters per year in the 1950 - 1979 time period are loosing more than 25 meters per year today.

In case you are thinking, 'so what?', let me tell you the estimated engineering costs associated with all of this will be in the several hundreds of billions of dollars in just Alaska. That estimate comes from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is only the cost of mitigation for about 60 coastal communities at risk of falling into the sea. Do you think the fossil fuel companies are going to pony up that money? Do you think the Koch brothers will donate any of their fortune? Don't count on it. The money for all of this will come from tax payer dollars. In other words, the American taxpayer will be paying for this.

Let's see. $100 billion dollars comes out to about $300 for every person in the country (bad news for a family of four!). And, the estimate is there will be 'several' billions of dollars of engineering costs. Where are those deniers that keep telling us global warming is good for us?

Canada does not come out very well in his account. Prime Minister Stephan Harper is a devoted anti-science advocate and has nearly shut down all science research in the country while actively trying to remove environmental regulations. Government scientists are prohibited from discussing their research with media. Government agents are sent to science conferences to monitor what Canadian scientists are saying.

Arctic research is being slashed, but the country then spent $300 million on a gravel road to a tiny village on the Arctic coast that will see only about $4.2 million in benefits from it. The people that will see the most benefit? Is there any surprise it is the fossil fuel industry that wants to build a natural gas pipeline through the area?

So, the Canadian government is shutting down research and instituting a Joe McCarthy policy, while spending hundreds of millions on a single road for the mega-wealthy fossil fuel companies. Too bad they didn't decide to spend that $300 million on research and let the fossil fuel companies build their own road.

Like I said, it is an interesting read. Not pleasant, but interesting.

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