Rising Sea Level Threat: Glaciers ‘Beyond the Point of No Return’

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/05/12-5

Pair of studies out Monday foresees “collapse” in West Antarctica

Andrea Germanos

Glaciers in the West Antarctic “have passed the point of no return,” threatening greater sea level rise impacts than previously thought, scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine warning in a new study.

The findings, which focus on the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica, were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The glaciers’ grounding lines — the points at least one thousand feet below ice where they first lose contact with land — are moving further inland, and as that happens, the glaciers’ flow speeds accelerate. And the faster they flow, the more they thin— that means their days are likely numbered.

Only one of the six glaciers they studied, the Haynes Glacier, had an obstruction upstream to slow down these changes, but even its retreat is moving as quickly as the others, the scientists found.

Given these changes, glaciologist and lead author Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, stated, “The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable.”

“The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable,” he warned, adding that “a conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea.”

A similar study by researchers at the University of Washington and published in Science found that the Thwaites Glacier, one of the six glaciers also studied in Rignot’s research, is heading towards what might be inevitable collapse.

“All of our simulations show it will retreat at less than a millimeter of sea level rise per year for a couple of hundred years, and then, boom, it just starts to really go,” lead author Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory, stated.

They estimate that the loss of Thwaites Glacier will result in a sea level rise of nearly two feet. While the time frame of the “collapse” will take at least 200 years and perhaps over 1,000 years, it has already begun — losing 10 feet of elevation per year in some spots — and appears to be inevitable.

“Previously, when we saw thinning we didn’t necessarily know whether the glacier could slow down later, spontaneously or through some feedback,” Joughin said. “In our model simulations it looks like all the feedbacks tend to point toward it actually accelerating over time; there’s no real stabilizing mechanism we can see.”

The two studies focusing on the West Antarctic come a week after researchers with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research warned that the “uncorking” of area in East Antarctica could unleash a 4-meter sea level rise over thousands of years.


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Ayaan Hirsi Ali — Free & Equal: What It Really Means

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American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/12/american-female-genital-mutilation-survivor-us-campaign

Jaha Dukurah urges health and human services nominee to carry out study on practice ‘happening here to American girls’

Sign Jaha’s Change.org petition here

in New York
The Guardian, Monday 12 May 2014

A 24-year-old American survivor of female genital mutilation called on the US government on Monday to help bring an end to FGM in the United States by gathering vital information about the practice in an effort to protect girls across the nation.

Jaha Dukureh, a mother of three from Atlanta, is urging President Barack Obama to order the department of health and human services to carry out a new study on FGM in the US that would establish how many American women and girls are at risk of the practice – the first step in tackling a crime that experts say stubbornly persists despite legislative efforts.

NGOs and survivors from affected communities have told the Guardian that American girls are being taken overseas to be cut, while others are cut by hired women on US soil. When legislation outlawing FGM in the US was passed in 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services put the number of women and girls affected or at risk at 168,000. But as affected communities have grown, the number is believed to have grown by 35% to at least 228,000 by 2000, according to research from the African women’s health center of Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has endorsed Dukureh’s campaign, which is being highlighted by the Guardian, calling FGM “a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States”. Supporters can sign her petition on the Change.org website.

“There is no way you should be born in America and still be worried about female genital mutilation,” said Dukureh. “America is the land of the free. In this country girls are protected. But FGM is not something that is happening in a far away place, it is happening here to American girls. They may come from immigrant communities, that doesn’t make it acceptable.”

Ban Ki-moon said FGM had to be tackled as a human rights issue. “I am proud to lend my voice to this important campaign. Governments around the world must work to protect girls from the barbaric practice of FGM,” he said.

He added that he had been inspired by meeting Fahma Mohammed, the young British activist who spearheaded a campaign in the UK, which resulted in the British government writing to all schools warning teachers about the dangers of the practice.

“Her courage and conviction show that one person can make an enormous difference. Now we are seeing Jaha Dukureh taking up the challenge in the United States, where I hope she will have equal success,” he said. “FGM is a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States and other countries where the practice is not well-known. We have to break all taboos about speaking out against this practice so that we can end it.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/12/american-female-genital-mutilation-survivor-us-campaign

Climate Deniers: The House Is On Fire, but They’re Staying Put

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179698/climate-deniers-house-fire-theyre-staying-put#

Zoë Carpenter
on May 6, 2014

“Oklahoma is burning, both literally and figuratively,” the state’s climatologist reported Monday, as temperatures soared into the triple digits and draught-stricken grasslands provided tinder for wildfires in several counties. The western part of the state faces the worst of the heat wave; grab the panhandle, and it will singe your palm. In Oklahoma, this is supposed to be the wettest part of the year.

“I don’t know what to tell ya,” the climatologist wrote. He linked to a state drought map from May of 2011, which shows similar swaths of red in the west. “Look familiar?”

Across the United States, the abnormal has become a new normal. “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” scientists affirmed in the National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated report released on Tuesday. Its authors found that climate disruption is already evident in every region of the country.

Although scientists caution against chalking up each aberrant event like the Oklahoma heat wave to climate change, such extremes are consistent with the severe weather and seasonal disruptions they anticipate in the future. The flip side to the longer periods of hot temperatures and drought that have been documented recently is a noted increase in heavy downpours, particularly in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains. The temperature is gradually rising, and air holds more moisture as it warms; it is then released in heavier rainfalls. In September, a year’s worth of rain flooded through parts of Colorado in a week. In April, workers in Washington State spent thirty-eight days looking for bodies in the debris left by a massive landslide.

The costs of a changing climate are staggering. Weather disasters with billion-dollar price tags have occurred in many states in recent years but with particular frequency in the Southeast, Texas and Oklahoma. Agricultural losses from the 2011 drought in Oklahoma and Texas alone amounted to more than $10 billion. In 2012, a late-spring cold snap after a warm winter caused $200 million in damage to Michigan’s cherry industry. The damage from Hurricane Sandy is thought to have exceeded $65 billion. Hurricane winds and rising seas cost Gulf Coast states $14 billion a year. By 2100, a four-foot rise in sea levels will cause $325 billion in damage nationally, with destruction in Florida alone totally $130 billion.

The climate toll is also born by bodies, and some more than others. “Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color,” reads the report. Heat, drought and wildfires worsen air pollution and respiratory stress, and scientists expect more emergency room visits and early deaths. The risk of waterborne diseases is rising along with rainfall and flooding. Diseases transmitted by fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are spreading as climatic shifts make new regions hospitable to the carriers. More people will die from heatstroke and from the effects of extreme heat on other conditions like heart disease.

Continue reading at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/179698/climate-deniers-house-fire-theyre-staying-put#

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