Scripps Oceanography researchers say they've uncovered evidence suggesting that a changing wind pattern could raise sea levels along California's coast. Peter Bromirski is an associate project scientist at Scripps. His study, published in a journal of the American Geophysical Union (subscription required), points out that worldwide, sea level rise boomed upward 50% during the nineties:
Global sea level rose during the 20th Century at a rate of about two millimeters (.08 inches) per year. That rate increased by 50% during the 1990s to a global rate of three millimeters (.12 inches) per year, an uptick frequently linked to global warming. Rising sea level has consequences for coastal development, beach erosion and wetlands inundation. Higher sea levels could cause increased damage to coastal communities and beaches, especially during coincident high tides, storm surges and extreme wave conditions.
I was listening to a segment my colleague Liane Hansen did - talking to Christopher D'Elia, from LSU's School for the Coast and the Environment. Liane used these words to introduce her conversation: disaster. Mind-boggling. Horror. Mesmerized. But maybe a minute and a half, 2 minutes in she said: "It could have been a lot worse."
We can't even decide, really, what to call the thing in our inevitable search to shorten it. BP? (But is it really all their fault?) Deepwater Horizon? (Better. But then where's BP?) Macondo, that'll work. (Oil guys love this one. It's all location.) MC252. (Clinical, clean; sounds like R2D2's cousin. I bet oil guys love that one too.)
Then: is it a spill? A disaster? A release? A rig explosion followed by a well failure? Navigating among these choices is tricky; balancing responsibility and description is a noble aim; words fail as we try to describe something that has happened and yet is still happening.
I'm not much of a Hemmingway woman, but The Sun Also Rises seems appropriate here. "How did you go bankrupt?" "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly."
In the future, I'll be bringing you a blog entry about water in California on Wednesdays. But yesterday I was winging my way to the coast...the Gulf Coast. New Orleans, Louisiana, where I lived before I came to work at KPCC.
I was en route to a science seminar here about emerging science from the spill: but even before I got here, I checked back into a Louisiana tradition: eating locally. As reported in the Times-Picayune in December, trained toxicologists are facing off over whether local seafood is a good idea. Honestly, it never crossed my mind NOT to eat post-spill oysters at Katie's in Mid-City New Orleans. Still fine for now.
This isn't just a boondoggle though. Some part of what we're talking about here centers on how hydrocarbons behave in the water, particularly deep in the water, and particularly after dispersants including Corexit were shot into the well and spread on the sea last year. California's already come up: even after talking to UCSB researchers last year about seep science and chemical oceanography research, I was surprised to learn that two-thirds of naturally seeping oil in US waters is here in the Gulf of Mexico. The other third is in Santa Barbara.