Friday, October 28, 2011

Galveston Island gets tough advice from Rice study

By HARVEY RICE, From: HOUSTON CHRONICLE

GALVESTON - Galveston officials should consider abandoning the west end of the island and consolidating the city behind the seawall to rejuvenate the economy and avoid being swamped by rising seas, Rice University scientists recommend in a two-year study made public Wednesday.

The 198-page "Atlas of Sustainable Strategies for Galveston Island" is an effort to encourage long-term planning for coastal cities and an island that must cope with rising sea levels and hurricanes.

The authors deem impractical a proposed "Ike dike" plan to protect the coast with hard structures, but recommend a levee to protect the bay side of the east end.

The report, produced by the university's Shell Center for Sustainability, says Galveston's economic future lies with tourism and a port expanded to service a new generation of super cargo ships designed for a wider Panama Canal that is nearing completion. The study closes with architectural visions that fortify the city against the rising sea and contribute to the growth of tourism.

"I appreciate Rice University's great study, and I look forward to discussing its findings," Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski said via email. "Given sea rise and erosion issues, I am aware there will always be a tension between development and open space preservation on Galveston's west end. I hope that future development is always done in the smartest, most sustainable way."

Jaworski said he agreed with the study's suggestions for development on the east end.

The authors do not expect their recommendations to have an immediate effect on Galveston policy, said co-author John Anderson, the Maurice Ewing professor of oceanography at Rice. "The plan in publishing this document is to get this information out there," Anderson said.

Facts paint grim future

In the first section, Anderson and oceanographer Davin Wallace use scientific evidence to outline the island's grim future.

Graduate students from other fields of study, including economics, lay out development options in the second section; the third section features selected designs from a four-year architecture school project.

"These data do not yield a pretty picture for the future of the island," notes the book's introduction.

The coastline on the west end is retreating at 3 to 6 feet per year, the fastest rate of erosion in 6,000 years, the book says. Sea level rise could double or triple the rate of erosion over the remainder of the century, it says.

The sand supply for Galveston beaches has run out and existing sand is being washed away by storms, much of it too far out to sea to return, according to the study.

The authors found that the western end of the island is eroding so fast and is so vulnerable to storms that it should be abandoned for the eastern end behind the seawall, the highest part of the island. An undeveloped area used for dredge spoilage, known as the East End Flats, could be developed to offset the population loss on the west end. The depopulated west end could be developed for ecotourism.

Costs factored in

The book also argues that it costs the city more to provide services for the west end than the area returns in property taxes. For example, 31 percent of the island's roads serve 11 percent of the population.

Population in the west end can be reduced by limiting construction near the beach, the book recommends. Another way is to adopt a geohazard map that was made for the city in 2007 but shelved. By building only in environmentally hazard-free areas, construction would be limited to a narrow zone in the center of the island.

The final solution is to wait for a catastrophic hurricane to do the job.

The last portion of the book is devoted to architectural designs that include protecting the shoreline with mangrove trees, extending the area in front of the seawall, and abandoning traditional wood-and-drywall houses for structures of steel and concrete that blend with the natural environment.

"We need to rethink the way we are living along the water's edge that produces less environmental impact," said co-author Christopher Hight, associate professor of architecture. "We can keep doing what we are doing, but it's not a recipe for success."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Climate Skeptic Sponsors New Climate Study, Confirms ‘Global Warming Is Real'

By Rebecca Boyle ; From: Popular Science

Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Findings This chart compares the BEST data, which included 1.6 billion temperature reports from 15 preexisting data archives, to other climate change trend data. BEST

Last year, as climate change deniers were up in arms over the so-called “Climategate” controversy involving alleged manipulation of climate data, one skeptical scientist proposed taking a fresh look. Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California-Berkeley and a self-described climate skeptic, undertook to review the temperature data underlying most global warming studies. Now his team has wrapped up their work, and it apparently solidifies the other studies’ findings.

Actually, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project found the Earth is getting even warmer than other climate scientists claim.

The findings have neither been peer-reviewed nor published, so some skeptics and deniers are as yet unsatisfied, but Muller says the group has submitted the papers for publication. Meanwhile, the data is all online for anyone’s review.

Muller said earlier this year that he was surprised by his own findings; now he accepts what other groups have been saying for years, that the Earth is getting warmer in most locations over time.

The BEST study is notable for a few reasons aside from Muller’s skepticism and the study’s funding sources, which include the climate-change-denying Charles and David Koch — it’s also a very comprehensive look, examining skeptics’ claims in detail and with a gigantic amount of data points. The study combined 1.6 billion temperature reports from 39,000 temperature stations around the globe, using 15 preexisting data archives.

The goal was to examine some of the most common claims from climate skeptics (let’s agree that there is a line between skepticism and denialism), which include: The poor quality of temperature monitoring stations; the poor siting of stations in cities, where they could be subject to urban heat-island effects; and the relatively small amount of available data employed by NASA, NOAA and the UK’s Met Office and Climatic Research Unit.

Statisticians developed a new approach that let them use fragmented records, such as those from unreliable monitoring stations, which embiggened the overall data set by about five times. Muller’s team also used satellite images to divide the world into urban and rural areas, which allowed them to correct for heat-island effects. And they ranked the quality of the monitoring stations, and found even poor stations accurately track temperature changes over time.

Their conclusion? “Global warming is real.” Very real, if their numbers are to be believed — the BEST analysis found that at the locations that showed warming, temperatures rose by an average 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, much higher than the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate of 0.64 degrees C.

“Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate,” he wrote in an op-ed about the work. Adding: “How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”

[via Wall Street Journal]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rising sea level erodes arable lands in Zanzibar

From: Coastweek

The trend of sea water intrusion may cause
serious food shortage in the long run

DAR ES SALAAM (Xinhua) -- Tanzania’s Zanzibar islands are facing serious environmental challenges as sea water intrusion destroys huge chunks of fertile arable lands and causes salinization along coastal areas, local media reported on Thursday.

Senior Natural Resources Officer in the Department of Environment Abuu Jaffar Ali was quoted by the Daily News saying that fertile arable lands had been washed away due to significant change of climatic pattern caused primarily by human activities.

“There is no doubt that the sea water is eating away huge fertile farm lands in some parts of Pemba ,” he said, citing Kisiwapanza, Kengeja and Tumbe in Pemba Island as a case in point, seriously affected by sea water intrusion.

Abuu noted that economic activities like introduction of salt farms, cutting down of mangroves, destruction of corals and construction activities were the main causes of the problem.

He said the trend of sea water intrusion may cause serious food shortage in the long run because the water is intruding into fertile arable lands.

In order to address the situation, the officer said that his department had identified the areas, created awareness campaign and established integrated coastal zone management (ICZM).

According to a survey conducted by the Department of Environment, the Islands are vulnerable from impact of climate change, sea-level rise and beach erosion in particular.

In Zanzibar , marine and coastal ecosystems are seriously affected in response to climatic changes as coral reefs and mangrove forests are expected to experience serious impact as a result of elevated sea surface temperatures.

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania . It comprises the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean , 25–50 km off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones of Unguja and Pemba .