Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 2, 2017

Oceans threatened by fertilizers.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 31, 2017

Outer Banks power outages expected to last of weeks.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 28, 2017

Plum Island, needles discovered on the beach.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 27, 2017

Plum Island, boat involved in capsizing fatality removed from jetty.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 25, 2017

Canada, whale kills rescuer.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 22, 2017

The 2017 Hurricane Season.

The 2017 Hurricane Season

June 1, 2017


The same day Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords was also the official start of the 2017 hurricane season. The National Weather Service had forecast that it would be a particularly active season with 5 to 9 hurricanes, 11 to 17 named storms, and 2 to 4 major hurricanes. Satellite imagery had shown that El Nino had ceased in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean would be hotter than usual, creating ideal conditions for major hurricanes.


But there was another reason the 2017 hurricane season would be so dangerous. In addition to pulling out of the Climate Accords, Trump’s administration planned to cut funding for the system of satellites that provided data for forecasting things like hurricanes, El Ninos and climate change events.


This was not very encouraging. Living on the coast would return to what it had been like before hurricane forecasting, like when 8,000 people were swept into the Gulf of Mexico because they had no warning of the 1900 Galveston Storm, or like when 600 people were swept off a Long Island beach during the 1938 Hurricane. They had flocked to the beach to see a mysterious fog bank that turned out to be the Storm Surge of the swiftly approaching storm that nobody had heard about.


The first hurricane warning service had been started in Cuba in the 1870’s. Father Benito Venes noticed that clouds preceded hurricanes as the storms passed from one side of Cuba to the other. He was able to use those observations to predict hurricanes days in advance. One reason that the Galveston storm had been so devastating is that the U.S. weather service had refused to incorporate Benito’s observations into their daily reports.


But by the 1950’s the US weather service were using aircraft to forecast hurricanes and they had started to name the storms after their pilot’s girlfriends. They could forecast a storm a day in advance in 1954, two days in advance by 1961, 3 days by 1964 and 5 days by 2001. If we want to achieve similar advances today, we have to continue improving our satellite system to provide data for more accurate models.


When coastal communities are destroyed by hurricanes today, it is usually not so much of a natural catastrophe as a man-made disaster brought about by people building homes on treacherous coastal cliffs and vulnerable barrier beaches.


I had been writing about one of these barrier beaches, Plum Island, since Hurricane Sandy. Because 2017 was also the fifth anniversary of that storm I decided to start my trip by looking first at Plum Island on the Northern coast of Massachusetts.


Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 19, 2017

Tropical Storm Don, Hilary not far behind.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 18, 2017

Earth too hot for humans?

Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 15, 2017

Donald and the Iceberg

Chapter 7




The Iceberg

July 12, 2017


On July 12, 2017 a million metric ton iceberg the size of Delaware calved off from the Antarctica peninsula. It floated almost as high above water as the Eiffel Tower and three times deeper. On the same day it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. had e-mailed, “I love it!” in response to a Russian lawyer’s invitation to share dirt on Hilary Clinton. Now I’m sure “I love it!” will go right down there with “I’m not a crook,” and “It depends what your definition of is, is,” as iconic defenses of presidential cover-ups.


If we were on a planet governed by Vulcans, or if “no drama Obama” were still in office, the mainstream media would be so afraid that he might start repeating his three main points about the Affordable Health Care Act that they would have run the Iceberg story front page, above the fold. And the Vulcan president would have proposed funding research on the problem and contacted all the other Vulcan nations about curtailing emissions for the long-term future of their planet.


Unfortunately, rather than being on a rerun of Star Trek we seem to stuck in the sequel of “Planet of the Apes.” And our instinct driven leaders seem more intent on short-term gain than long term survival.


So, instead of working to solve this wicked hard problem, we do what any social primate would do, concentrate on the foibles and sex lives of our leaders. We seem far more interested in why Melania wont hold Donald Trump’s hand than that pesky little iceberg floating somewhere off Antarctica.


The Trump Jr. saga will dominate the news cycles for several months, but which incident will have greater significance twenty or even fifty years from now, another scandal in this scandal ridden presidency or enough sea level rise to start threatening Boston, London, Shanghai and Miami?


That is the concern of scientists who have been monitoring the break up of Antarctica’s Ice Shelf that acts like a cork holding back the Antarctica’s land-based glaciers. The last time the planet was warming this fast was 125,000 years ago and the sea levels rose 25 to 30 feet higher than today. What they don’t know is how quickly that happened, was it over centuries or thousands of years, or over just decades like what we have just seen on the ice shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula?


Probably the most authoritative analysis of this problem was done by James Hansen and 19 other scientists. They calculated that due to all causes we can expect nine feet of sea level rise in 50 years and about three feet in 25 years. An earlier paper figured out that when the seas start rising more than 3 feet a century barrier beaches like Plum Island will start breaking up rather than migrating slowly landward.


Ever since the Ice Age the sea has been rising about a foot every century, but about twenty years ago that rose to about a foot and a half feet. So people have had the experience of going to a beach that they remember as being sixty to a hundred feet wide and seeing waves lapping at the dunes.


Nauset, the beach I went to as a kid has retreated so far that the town of Orleans has bought motel’s empty parking lot that they can start using when the old lot is washed away. Just this past summer they moved several of their buildings dozens of feet further back.


If the Hansen paper is correct our kids will see the retreats of whole sections of cities like Newburyport and the disappearance of beautiful barrier islands like Plum Beach in the face of this onslaught.


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