How high's the water, mama?
Five feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Five feet high and risin'
From "Five Feet High and Rising," by Johnny Cash
Is global warming making sea levels rise? Can the ocean's waters surge to dangerous, even catastophic levels?
Dr. Maureen Raymo, Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, will discuss the potential effects of rising sea levels tonight at 5:30 p.m. at The Floren Family Environmental Center at the Innis Arden Cottage. Her talk is the first in a three-part lecture series from the Bruce Museum --"Sea Level, Scientists and Society" -- that will feature scientists discussing cutting-edge research on the elements that are affecting our oceans.
Raymo, who studies what history tells us about the risks of sea-level change to life on earth, answered a few questions for Greenwich Citizen offering a look at what she will be discussing -- and a glimpse at the future.
Have there been any measurable sea level changes in this area?
Raymo: The answer is yes. I mostly study sea levels in the distant past. But I can quote from the expert on this topic -- Ben Horton, Associate Professor Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania: "The ocean began rising an average of 2.1 millimeters per year some time between 1865 and 1892 and hasn't stopped, the study concludes. The current rate of sea level rise is about 3.2 mm per year. That trend, gleaned from muck collected in North Carolina salt marshes, is a direct consequence of increasing temperatures."
In this century how will these rising sea level changes affect Greenwich and Long Island?
Raymo: The sea level could easily rise one meter in the next 90 years. There are various apps on the web that map sea level rise although there are various assumptions that go into them so they may not be strictly accurate. Keep in mind also that a small rise in sea level can amplify magnitude of storm surges tremendously -- think of the damage from a low tide surge versus a high tide surge.
With the even greater sea levels predicted in the next century are we talking catastrophe?
A: Of course. By the end of 22nd century sea level could rise by a few meters. This would be catastrophic to coast lines around the world and the cities co-located (with their millions of people). My family owns a house -- one meter above high tide level in hurricane latitudes. Sadly, I don't expect it will be there at end of this century, let alone next century, and will feel fortunate if it lasts another 50 years. It will probably eventually be taken out by a storm surge as sea levels rise and hurricanes become more frequent/stronger.
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Tonight's lecture at 5:30 p.m. is free to the public but, with limited seating, reservations are recommended. Call the Bruce Museum at 203-869-0376 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.