Managed Retreat

Along the eastern shore of Britain the line between sea and land has been sketched many times and any particular stroke we might consider now as definitive tells us more about our place in time than about the place’s place in space. Up and down the coast are fields re-claimed from the brine, drained, each one a little victory in a guerrilla campaign against the tide, fought for and barricaded in, fortified with bank and stone work. The war, of course, was actually lost millennia ago when climate change had worked its assault on the northern ice and a distant frozen fortification was undermined - releasing a tsunami across Doggerland, our Palaeolithic Atlantis, the fabled land bridge across which the first hominids had walked here. Since then the German Ocean, the North Sea, has provided our moat – a stretch of water separating the British archipelago from the continent to which it belongs.


Monday, 14 December 2015

Europe Under Water

It seems churlish to disparage the deal cut in Paris at COP21 even if one feels that it doesn't go far enough, that governments can't be trusted to meet targets they've agreed, that too much faith is being put in Geo-engineering, carbon sequestration and nuclear power, that... there's plenty of critique out there. It's fair to sat that it's much better than it could have been, which is not to say that it's enough.

Here's James Hansen et al from the controversial paper 'Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 C global warming is highly dangerous' in  the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
 [Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 15, 20059-20179, 2015

'Humanity faces near certainty of eventual sea level rise of at least Eemian proportions, 5–9 m, if fossil fuel emissions continue on a business-as-usual course, e.g., IPCC scenario A1B that has CO2 700 ppm in 2100 (Fig. S21). It is unlikely that coastal cities or low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands, and large portions of the United States eastern coast and northeast China plains (Fig. S22) could be protected against such large sea level rise.

Rapid large sea level rise may begin sooner than generally assumed. Amplifying feedbacks, including slowdown of SMOC and cooling of the near-Antarctic ocean surface with increasing sea ice, may spur nonlinear growth of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss. Deep submarine valleys in West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin of East Antarctica, each with access to ice amounting to several meters of sea level, provide gateways to the ocean. If the Southern Ocean forcing (subsurface warming) of the Antarctic ice sheets  continues  to  grow,  it  likely  will  become  impossible  to  avoid  sea  level  rise  of several meters, with the largest uncertainty being how rapidly it will occur.'

Friday, 11 December 2015

Increasing Edge via Realignment

A useful illustration from the Dutch Deltaproof website in their section explaining managed retreat/realignment.

'Intertidal habitats and natural coastlines provide an important buffering function for flood protection. Habitats absorb and attenuate wave energy and in turn provide protection against flooding and prevent erosion, also during storm events. In addition, the intertidal areas move landward to a proportionately higher elevation as sea levels rise. Man-made flood defences form an obstacle for these natural processes to occur. These were constructed decades ago to prevent the flooding of low lying coastal and estuarine areas. While these constructions enabled the land to be developed or used for agriculture, hydro-morphological processes and functions of a water body were constrained. A fixed line of flood defence leads to narrowing of the intertidal area - a phenomenon known as coastal squeeze.'

Particularly Vulnerable

The BBC reports on 5 ways climate change could effect the UK, Way 3 is 'Rising Sea Levels':

'The UK Climate Projections of 2009 estimated a sea-level rise of between 13cm and 76cm for the UK by 2095.

The report also suggested the number of "extreme high sea-level events" - caused by storm swells - on the south coast of England could become between 10 and 1,800 times more common by 2100, depending on different scenarios involving emissions. The government acknowledges there's "lively scientific debate" over the issue.

Sea levels don't rise uniformly, says [Joanna] Haigh [co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London], and are "hard to predict".

Areas that have been identified as particularly vulnerable to coastal flood risk include South Wales, north-west Scotland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, East Anglia and the Thames estuary.'

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Louisiana coastline disappearing

A new Al Jazeera mini-documentary on how sea-level change and wild weather threatens an American state and the underfunded  Coastal Master Plan - a  plan to protect against land loss by restoring the wetlands. Watch it here: The Disappearing Lousiana Coastline .

The video also features members of Gulf South Rising, a 'regional movement of coordinated actions and events to highlight the impact of the global climate crisis on the Gulf South region (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). Through collaborative events and actions around strategic dates in 2015, GSR demands a just transition away from extractive industries, discriminatory policies and unjust practices that hinder equitable recovery from disaster and impede the development of sustainable communities. This year-long initiative 1) builds regional movement infrastructure; 2) connects and convenes frontline communities around ecological equity and collective healing; 3) advances regional efforts of indigenous tribal and land sovereignty; and 4) shifts the regional narrative from resilience to resistance.'

Delegates from Gulf South Rising are currently attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference Of Partiesin Paris.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Brighter Later

The sea photographed from Essex - one of the images in Brian David Stevens' collection Brighter Later a series of photographs looking out to sea from every coastal county in Britain.

'Looking out to sea you truly are looking into the future, seeing the weather and the waves that will at some point arrive at the shores of this island, you predict their inevitable, unstoppable approach. You look out rather than look in.'

The book of photographs is available from tartaruga

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Shifting Shores

The National Trust has just issued a new report on coastal erosions: Shifting Shores. It marks the increasing move towards adaptation strategies as it becomes clear that action to stop climate change is happening too slow and too late. The authors write:

'In our new report  'shifting shores – playing our part at the coast', we are calling for a bold and imaginative approach to coastline management, involving an understanding of how nature works, moving towards adaptation and away from maintaining engineered defences, where appropriate, while being sensitive to community needs.' 

I particularly enjoyed the glossary at the back, with these gems:

Managed re-alignment – allows an area that is not currently exposed to flooding by the sea to become flooded by removing frontline coastal protection. Note – can also occur as a consequence of ‘force majuere’ i.e. unmanaged re-alignment. [My emphasis]

Uncertainty – a situation where the current state of knowledge is such that the order or nature of things is not fully understood and thus absolute outcomes cannot be defined or guaranteed.