Friday, October 28, 2016

Canoe U - Who Knew?

Consciousness of global warming will rise with the seas. Other parts of the world, particularly the Far East, will gain consciousness earlier than America, but the truth will become clear to those of us on the east coast faster than you might expect. Studies modeling climate change often select the turn of the next century as the datum for reporting outcomes, leading casual readers to think that the interim won't pose a major problem. In the case of sea level rise, it is important to understand that there is no escape - we are already locked in to being driven back by the sea in many littoral areas regardless of how much we mitigate carbon emissions. The more salient question is: how quickly will the seas continue to rise?

Recently, scientists have found that there is a strong possibility that previous estimates of the inextirpable rate of sea level rise are short by half if the West Antarctic ice shelf calves off into the drink. A study done this year looks at what that could mean for east coast U.S. military bases. It also includes a scenario for the case that Antarctica doesn't fall apart. Either way, bases on the east coast will struggle to adapt to the sea's encroachment on their territory.

The Navy will gain awareness more quickly than other services as a result of port visits in Japan, the Philippines, and other countries where sea level rise is having a more dramatic effect. Several coastal military bases will also find themselves surrounded by communities suffering from increasingly flooded homes and businesses. As storm intensity increases, the rise in mean sea level can also be magnified by storm surges, so natural disasters will convince many more military leaders of the problem sometime in the next two decades.

Annapolis, though hardly the most severely impacted, has a recent litany of incidents that serve to raise awareness of not only the Navy community, but also Maryland lawmakers who convene about half a mile up the street from the frequently flooded dock area. Even without the new alarm over Antarctica, projections are for an increase of flooding events to 180 times per year by 2030. The Naval Academy has already seen an increase in flooding and can expect to lose all of its athletic fields along with several buildings over the long term.
Photo: Bill Taylor 
There will probably be those from the "ships at sea" school who try to capitalize on the expansion of their nautical domain, but they will be outnumbered by sand crabs who won't appreciated being flooded out of their secure nooks. I wouldn't be surprised to see an increasing number of midshipmen being steered into oceanography or other new environmental majors in the coming years.

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