Upward Spiral

A new study published  in Nature by Harvard University researchers corrects a few measurements when it comes to changes in the sea level over the past century.

On the one hand, researchers wanted to gain a more accurate picture of how quickly sea levels are actually rising in an era of global warming.

Blue Garden, 200 meters beneath the ocean surface. The top of the sphere could be elevated above the surface for sunlight and fresh air, and retracted during storms. Image: Shimizu Corporation

Blue Garden, 200 meters beneath the ocean surface. The top of the sphere could be elevated above the surface for sunlight and fresh air, and retracted during storms.
Image: Shimizu Corporation

On the other hand, they re-examined assumptions on the speed of sea level change over the past century by re-assessing data and ‘fingerprints’ used to measure the change in sea levels between 1900-1990.

Current predictive models for how quickly glacial melting will impact coastlines are based on analyses of past sea levels showing a gradual rise over many decades.

What the research team under Carling Hay and Eric Morrow found upon re-examining data gathered over the course of the 20th century was that sea levels had risen much less than previously thought, in some cases up to 30% less, by 1990.

Which means that the current rising levels didn’t happen slowly over the course of a long century – they have occurred much more quickly over the past twenty years due to a wide variety of factors.

This may require some adjustments to coastal planning.

Good thing Japan’s Shimizu Corporation just released these drafts for an underwater town, poetically dubbed ‘Blue Garden‘.

Blue Garden, interior view. The sphere would contain homes, stores, offices, a hotel and research facilities. Image: Shimizu Corporation

Blue Garden, interior view. The sphere would contain homes, stores, offices, a hotel and research facilities.
Image: Shimizu Corporation

The proposed city would be sustainable and energy self-sufficient using thermal power generated by temperature differences between the water surface and ocean depths, as well as from methane-producing micro-organism factories.

The Corporation says it could produce the spherical abodes, which would be attached to the ocean floor and could accommodate up to 5000 people, by 2030.

The Blue Garden spheres could be connected into networks of spheres to create cities. Image: Shimizu Corporation

The Blue Garden spheres could be connected into networks of spheres to create cities.
Image: Shimizu Corporation

Sunspot Window

Coils of magnetic field lines. The bundles of coils are charged particles swirling along magnetic field lines. Image: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Coils of magnetic field lines on the Sun.
The bundles of coils are charged particles swirling along magnetic field lines.
Image: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Besides being the sole source of warmth here on the third planet in its orbit, the Sun displays surface activity that is beautiful as well as relevant. These images from NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) were taken and processed with a number of techniques that highlight sunspot phases.

Sunspots are temporary areas of high magnetic activity that appear as dark spots on the surface of the sun.

A low frequency of sunspots can lead to lower temperatures here on Earth; a high sunspot frequency can support higher temperatures.

The current phase of sunspots, known as Sunspot Cycle 24, has seen the lowest number of sunspots since the space age began, and all the way back to 1906.

Image: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Image: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

There are those who continue to argue that the current upwards trend in the temperature of our climate is largely due to solar activity rather than to any man-made influences.

For those who insist that the mitigation of global climate change doesn’t require weaning the world energy supply from fossil fuels, the lack of a sharper rise in atmospheric warming during Sunspot Cycle 24 might be just the window of opportunity needed to support the ongoing expansion and exploitation of fossil fuels.

The overwhelming scientific consensus, however, holds that while Sunspot Cycle 24 might mean that temperatures will rise at a slower level than they would during a period of higher sunspot activity, they will continue rise due to anthropogenic influence unless major changes are made in human activity and behavior.

From this perspective, a slow sunspot phase might offer a bit more time to adapt, to cooperate, to develop new solutions for a warming world. A window of opportunity to be seized.

All things considered, I’m hoping this slow sunspot phase will be a long one.

The Sun now Image/Caption: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

The Sun now
Image/Caption: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

 

A note on the Solar Dynamics Observatory from the SDO¬†website: “The SDO is a sun-pointing semi-autonomous spacecraft that will allow nearly continuous observations of the Sun,” and is “the first mission to be launched for NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program, a program designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth.”