Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Thinking Locally, Acting Globally
It's Getting Hot in Herre

The Seattle P-I reported today on a climate change study by University of Washington researchers focusing on the Puget Sound region. It seems that global warming is on our rather temperate doorstep:

The region is already experiencing changes associated with a warmer planet.

Among the report's findings: The average annual air temperature around the Sound rose 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit during the last century, more than double the average increase globally of 1.1 degrees. Water temperatures measured near Victoria, B.C., have risen nearly 2 degrees since 1950. Glaciers across the Cascades and the Olympics have been shrinking over the past 50 to 150 years.

Sea levels already have swelled globally between 4 and 8 inches over the past century, thanks to melting glaciers and polar ice, and the fact that water expands as it warms.

In the future, the southern reaches of the Sound are expected to suffer the most from rising tides, owing to geological changes causing the land there to sink. In Friday Harbor, waters could rise less than half a foot by the middle of this century, but Tacoma could see levels increase by more than twice that.
The report released today compiles data that measure observed and predicted changes to the conditions of Puget Sound. It draws on research from the UW, international research groups, the state Ecology Department and others. The Puget Sound Action Team paid the UW's Climate Impacts Group $20,000 for the study.

And not to get too alarmist (but frankly, I think we should), here's a great paragraph from a post at The Oil Drum by Stuart Staniford (grabbed by way of the Gristmill blog) that channels a bit of REM's verbal pretzel "It's The End of the World As We Know It," but get it's point across rather vividly via the linked text.
[W]e are reaching the point where we can see that we are starting to make massive, probably irreversible, changes to our climate. The glaciers are in full retreat almost everywhere, the Arctic is melting (with total melting of the summer sea ice possible, though not certain, as early as 2020), the permafrost is melting, and releasing large amounts of methane, which is a very powerful global warming gas, while in the last thirty years, droughts have doubled due to warming, hurricanes are much more intense all over the globe, and are showing up in places they never did before in recorded history. Scientists have been projecting changes in ocean circulation, and lo-and-behold, they are starting to show up, including changes to the North Atlantic Circulation, although major change here was previously thought unlikely this century. There is some possibility of changes in deepwater circulation destabilizing methane hydrates in the ocean, particularly in South East Asian deeps. Oh, and the Greenland ice sheet is now melting much faster than climatologists expected, and the West Antarctic ice sheet is starting to collapse, though again, this was previously thought unlikely. Also paleoclimatological studies have made it clear that in the past the climate abruptly flipped between modes, sometimes with dramatic change in as little as three years. And we are making rapid changes in carbon dioxide, known to be critically important in regulating the temperature of this sensitive climatic system for a century now.


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