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March coastal scuttlebutt: daily miniposts


officiallogoMarch 28

A strong editorial in today’s The Times-Picayune describes the looming deficits in the state budget that face the legislators who will join the governor at the State Capitol this week as the legislative session kicks off. The editorial doesn’t mention the coastal implications of the red ink but the anticipated exponential rise in the dollars spent on coastal projects will no doubt contribute to the sobering fiscal reality check in Baton Rouge.

The request for approval of the FY 2011 annual state plan with $507 million in state coastal funding may trigger some head scratching, in view of severe and growing cuts to higher education, the seat of academic coastal science.

March 27

Today is Earth Hour Day, when people concerned about climate change in 92 countries around the globe are turning off their lights for an hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 PM in their respective time zones. Inconvenient timing for fans of the Elite Eight NCAA games. I’ve seen no mention of Earth Hour Day in the local news media.

Graphic from the NY Times

Graphic from the NY Times

Andrew C. Revkin created Dot Earth, a blog site supported by the New York Times to provide credible current information on climate science. On March 25 Revkin provided a column on the ocean conveyance system that plays a critical role in distributing heat energy around the globe from equatorial areas to high latitudes. Concerns that rapid melting of Greenland ice would disrupt this conveyance stream were recently allayed by new studies that show no slowdown so far. Revkin’s post includes a fascinating animation of the flow pattern. Check it out. The Gulf Stream is a major part of the overall conveyance system and the loop current that distributes heat energy through the Gulf of Mexico is a giant eddy from the Gulf Stream (not shown in the animation).

March 26

John M. Broder wrote an article for today’s New York Times on the waning congressional support for a cap-and-trade market system to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  A new approach to limiting CO2 emissions is called “cap and dividend” in which (if I understand the concept) the right to pollute would be auctioned by the government, rather than bought and sold by competing industries under a carbon trading system.

licenses to pollute would be auctioned to producers and wholesalers of fossil fuels, with three-quarters of the revenue returned to consumers in monthly checks to cover their higher energy costs.

The effects of this shift are unclear but it would seem to reduce the possibility that cash credit for carbon sequestration may help pay for coastal wetland restoration projects in Louisiana.

March 25

Stewart Udall 37th Secretary of the Interior (photo from Wikipedia)

Stewart Udall 37th Secretary of the Interior (photo from Wikipedia)

I neglected to note the death on March 20 of my environmental hero Stewart Udall at the age of 90. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to co-host him on a pre-Katrina flight over part of the Louisiana coast, with folklorist Nick Spitzer, who hosts American Routes, a public radio music program based in New Orleans. My daughter Emilie also flew with us and we all enjoyed raw oysters at the former Acme Oyster House on Lakeshore Drive near UNO. This account of Udall’s environmental impact by Elizabeth Shogren was aired on NPR on March 22. During our flight Udall told us that as Secretary of Interior under LBJ he attempted without success to establish a national seashore along the Louisiana Coast. Local politicos, including the late Senator Russell Long, wouldn’t hear of it.

In case you missed it yesterday a number of news outlets, including this post in HuffPost, noted the disappearance of this small Indian island in the Bay of Bengal , a victim of anthropogenic climate change.

New Moore Island DISAPPEARS Into The Sea  NIRMALA GEORGE | 03/24/10 09:29 AM |

New Moore Island DISAPPEARS Into The Sea NIRMALA GEORGE | 03/24/10 09:29 AM |

I was particularly struck by the following quote on the dramatic change in the rate of sea level rise during the past decade by Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta.

Until 2000, the sea levels rose about 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) a year, but over the last decade they have been rising about 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) annually.

At the recent Hurricane Workshop at LSU I heard speakers using the rate of from 2-3 mm/yr, half the rate used in the story.  That’s a big discrepancy,

March 24

Bruce Alpert wrote an article for The Times-Picayune about the closing of the office to coordinate gulf coast rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. For the past year rhis office, which was set up by President Bush, has been headed by Janet Woodka, Tulane Law School graduate. Ms. Woodka will transfer to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where Alpert says she will be assigned to coastal restoration in Louisiana. That appointment sounds intriguing, in that EPA has an excellent record of promoting important but sometimes controversial restoration projects. These include reconnecting Bayou Lafourche to the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville, a river diversion into the Manchac coastal forest, the pipeline conveyance of dredged sediments and even the beneficial use of spent bauxite (red mud) from the local manufacture of alumina.

March 23

Photo from NPR

Photo from NPR

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition carried a fascinating story yesterday on the concept that climate change influenced the direction of human evolution during our six million year history. A major study is now being mounted to further test this hypothesis. I’m fascinated with the ironic possibility that ‘natural’ climate change expanded the adaptability, technological capability and population density of our ancestors. This capability has now reached the point at which anthropogenic climate change threatens our very existence.

March 22

Having stayed up until the bitter end watching CSPAN last night I was deeply moved by the dramatic passage at 10:30 PM CDT of the health care reform package by the US House of Representatives. The bill is far from perfect but its implications for the President’s administration are huge. I believe that he will now be empowered to lead the struggle on the global issue with direct coastal implications – a national energy policy to address climate change and our unsustainable dependence on oil from the Mideast. Who Dat!!!

March 21: Superbowl Sunday for health care reform?

Today’s New York Times carries a description of the comeback from the dead of the Obama health care reform package , which, if it achieves 216 votes or more in the US House this evening, will rival the Saints’ win in Miami for improbability. I believe that the coast of Louisiana is riding on the passage of this package. Here’s why:

According to Garret Graves, Gov. Jindal’s coastal advisor, President Obama has shown extraordinary support for saving the northern Gulf Coast from a long slow death. The Obama administration will continue for from three to seven more years, during which time either we will reach the point at which a sustainable future for at least part of our coast becomes possible or we can begin to draft the epitaph for the largest delta in North America.

The effectiveness of the Obama administration, including what happens in south Louisiana, may be contingent on the outcome of this crucial vote. Who Dat says that health care reform can’t pass?

March 20

Richard Burgess reports in today’s The Advocate that a state official from St. Mary Parish has been advancing the concept of installing turbines in the Wax Lake Outlet of the Atchafalaya River to generate electricity for Morgan City:

…state Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, is pushing legislation this year to create the St. Mary Hydroelectric Authority to pursue projects on the river.

The following quote from Representative Jones reflects widespread public ignorance about the role of the Atchafalaya and lower Mississippi distributaries in sustaining all of south Louisiana:

“There is a significant amount of flow, and we don’t use it for anything,”

Growing interest in using the lower Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to generate electricity is not surprising but lawmakers should be discouraged from proposing the formation of independent districts with authority to manage the flow of parts of the river system that represents our only hope of saving part of the coast. Lawmakers should be reminded of the problems created by the formation of independent levee districts in the past.

I encourage you to read this Editorial in today’s The Times-Picayune about the extremely bleak and worsening Louisiana state budget picture, with a $400 million shortfall during the next 3 months and red ink as far as the eye can see. Over 100,000 of Louisiana’s 4 million residents are public employees (2.5%). The obvious need for belt tightening while the coastal program is expanding are very unclear.

March 19

I wasn’t able to attend the entire meeting on March 17 of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) but Mark Schleifstein summarized most of the critical agenda items discussed in an article in The Times-Picayune on 3/19.

On 3/18 Amy Wold wrote an article about the same meeting for The Advocate. She focused on the fact that the CPRA approved the draft 2011 annual state plan for protecting and restoring the coast. I recently posted a critique of this document. The next step in the process is approval by the state legislature during its upcoming session, which will allow the expenditure of $546 million during FY 2011 for various projects.

A colleague who’s an experienced coastal engineer sent me some comments about the meeting from an insider’s perspective. My ‘spy’ expressed concern over some CPRA policy decisions that were announced.  One of his comments bears sharing with all those readers interested in levees and flood risk standards:

Many folks have noted that the 1% hazard as a “design objective” is way below optimal (on cost-benefit) for protecting urban areas with high property/economic value and way above optimal for less dense areas (where it could make sense to design a 50-yr levee).  The 1% criteria is obviously not appropriate for protecting lives, where evacuation is not feasible…

March 18

The inexplicable and inexcusable scheduling of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) meeting yesterday, on the second day of the two-day Hurricane Workshop at LSU, forced me to leave the former meeting before it ended. The CPRA meeting included several technical presentations, including one on river diversion modeling and one on flood levee decertification that I for one would like to able to review.

This made me wonder why the proceedings transcript and/or power point slides should be posted on the CPRA website.  At the very minimum, whatever materials are given to CPRA members should be available to the public.

How about it?

March 17

Top of the morning, Y’all!

Amy Wold wrote an article for The Advocate about information presented at the first of a two-day hurricane conference at LSU that continues today. I was at the conference but missed many of the presentations, being engaged in side bar conversations on coastal science and policy.

The single issue that I heard over and over is that the third dimension is the weak link. Flood risk maps and surge models are all dramatically hindered by obsolete bathymetric and topographic coastal data. Elevation is the solution to inundation.

RICHARD ALAN HANNON/The Advocate Joseph Suhayda, interim director of the LSU Hurricane Center, speaks Tuesday during the 2010 Central Gulf of Mexico Hurricane Conference at LSU. Suhayda said many factors, natural and man-made, affect storm surge.

RICHARD ALAN HANNON/The Advocate Joseph Suhayda, interim director of the LSU Hurricane Center, speaks Tuesday during the 2010 Central Gulf of Mexico Hurricane Conference at LSU. Suhayda said many factors, natural and man-made, affect storm surge.

Molly Reid reports in The Times-Picayune on a new technique to reduce the populations of urban nutria in New Orleans. The invasive rodents have been digging tunnels in levees along Bayou St. John, where shooting and trapping are infeasible. A pest control company has been successfully using nutria-sized hunting dogs to follow the large rats underground. I’d be interested to learn whether this approach has application to the city slicker critters’ country cousins that have long been destroying wetlands that the government spends more than $5,000/acre to recreate.

March 16

This is a complaint.

Early predictions are that 2010 could be a bad season for Atlantic hurricanes and I can’t think of any subject more important to the informed public and coastal officials in south Louisiana. A very timely two-day hurricane workshop is being held today and tomorrow at LSU’s Lod Cook Center.

So why is the monthly meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority  (CPRA) scheduled for March 17, in direct competition with the hurricane meeting?

Is anyone employed by the state tasked with keeping track of coastal meetings? If not, why not?This is ridiculous and it’s inexcusable.

March 15

On 3/13/10 New York Times science reporter John M. Broder described a new report by the Department of the Interior (DOI) that nearly a third of the ~800 species of birds in the US are showing significant signs of stress from climate change. Coastal birds are particularly at risk.

Melanie Driscoll of the Louisiana Audubon Society was quoted on WRKF-FM today also calling attention to the DOI report. The increasingly threatened Mississippi River delta is as critical to migrating birds as any piece of geography in the world.

This latest annual DOI State of the Birds report needs to be highlighted in the draft 2011 Annual State Plan on Coastal Protection and Restoration. I won’t hold my breath.

March 14

Jared Serigne is a film maker with interesting family roots that connect to the French founders of New Orleans. He sent this link to a five-minute videoclip interview with Junior Rodriguez, famously outspoken and colorful former President of St. Bernard Parish, about the damage caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) that was recently sealed off from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m most intrigued by Junior’s advocacy of one of the most straightforward and important coastal protection and restoration projects – the need to plant baldcypress saplings on a large scale. This is worth a watch.

Nikki Buskey wrote an article for The Daily Comet that describes an address on the state of coastal protection and restoration given by Garret Graves, Governor Jindal’s coastal advisor, at a membership luncheon for Restore or Retreat in Thibodaux on Friday. During his presentation Graves brought up $19 million in new money that the Obama administration has allocated for projects in south Louisiana as the beginning of what could be a very promising funding stream.

Graves told attendees that the money will be used to jump-start three specific and long-awaited coastal projects in the area of particular importance to residents of Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes – but also of very high priority to the overall restoration program:

a major project to dredge Bayou Lafourche and bump up the amount of Mississippi River water flowing down the bayou; a project that would use the Houma Navigation Canal Lock to divert freshwater from the Atchafalaya River into northern Terrebonne marshes; and a Barataria Basin shoreline restoration project that would rebuild the Caminada Headland and Shell Island east of Bayou Lafourche.

March 13

Huffingtonpost carries a videoclip of Bill Maher hosting a debate on climate change on his HBO show “Real Time” on March 12. In my opinion this discussion effectively captures in less than 8 minutes the current state of ignorance on the part of educated climate change skeptics. This is really worth watching, no matter your feeling on the issue. I love Mahar’s final quote, “I want to live.”

March 12

Paul Rioux wrote an article published on 3/10 in The Times-Picayune on the Donaldsonville-to-the-Gulf flood protection project, a proposed system of levees and gates that could divide the Barataria Basin into a northern “protected” zone and a southern “unprotected” zone. Rioux covered a public meeting in Jean Lafitte in lower Jefferson Parish of the science board that was commissioned by the state to evaluate alternative alignments of the levee.

John Ettinger with the Environmental Protection Agency and various members of the environmental community have expressed strong concerns about the wisdom of enclosing wetlands with so-called “leaky levees.”

Louis A. Codispoti,* wrote an article just published in the highly respected Science Magazine that links Gulf hypoxia, the ‘dead zone’ along the northern gulf coast to anthropogenic climate change (ACC).

Gulf hypoxia is caused by concentrated nutrients in Mississippi River water draining from over-fertilized Midwestern cornfields. The nutrients (primarily forms of dissolved nitrogen oxides) trigger ‘algal blooms,’ exploding colonies of floating algal cells that eventually sink to the bottom and decompose – sucking up dissolved oxygen.

Modern agriculture is a well-known source of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide but this study demonstrates yet another link between agriculture and ACC. Here’s the abstract of the article.

Although present in minute concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere, nitrous oxide (N2O) is a highly potent greenhouse gas (1). It is also becoming a key factor in stratospheric ozone destruction (2). For the past 400,000 years, changes in atmospheric N2O appear to have roughly paralleled changes in CO2 and to have had modest impacts on climate (1), but this may change. Human activities may be causing an unprecedented rise in the terrestrial N2O source (2). Marine N2O production may also rise substantially as a result of eutrophication, warming, and ocean acidification. Because the marine environment is a net producer of N2O, much of this production will be lost to the atmosphere, thus further intensifying N2O’s climatic impact.

*University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory, Cambridge, MD 21613, USA. This center is headed by Don Boesch, frequent LaCoastPost contributor and commenter.

March 11

Paul Purpura wrote an article published today in The Times-Picayune describing a talk that Gov. Jindal gave on the West Bank yesterday in which he spoke effusively about the dramatic increase in money spent on the coast during the first two years of his administration.

The coastal program has in fact reached a new level of spending but I question how much personal credit our governor deserves and how much is an accident of timing. More important is the fact that money spent does not equate to progress on reversing land loss in south Louisiana. To claim net progress on the ground at this point is purely wishful thinking.

Purpura’s article includes two specific quotes attributed to Jindal that make me cringe:

“I want to emphasize this. We are not waiting. We need our federal government to be our partners in this…But we cannot wait for them to do more studies.” Dismissing the need for more studies denies the huge uncertainties that confront us.

“Yes, we need levees,” Jindal said. “We can’t build the great wall of Louisiana alone to protect us from these storms. We need comprehensive coastal restoration as well.”

The “great wall of Louisiana” is a concept that has been thoroughly discredited by the very science that our governor implies is unnecessary.

Ted Griggs wrote a business article in The Advocate today that flies in the face of official state opposition to carbon cap-and-trade legislation under debate in Congress. Griggs reports that if CO2 limits were imposed on industry there would be a large demand to sell CO2 and that this market would include injecting CO2 underground to drive residual crude oil to the surface. Are you listening Steven Moret (head of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development)?

March 10

John M. Broder wrote a hopeful article published in The New York Times about two of America’s rivals for the Global Gold Medal of per-capita Greenhouse Gas Generation. The European Union and China are current silver and bronze medal holders, respectively, with India in 4th place. China just passed the US in terms of total emissions.

Yesterday China and India signed onto a non-binding but ambitious agreement drafted at Copenhagen for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

If only Louisiana’s members of the US Congress shared a serious interest in lowering Louisiana’s significant contribution to America’s shameful top position on the winner’s podium.

March 9

Mark Schleifstein’s article in today’s The Times-Picayune describes the unusually cold and wet approaching Spring in south Louisiana, resulting from a strong El Nino condition produced by warmer than average surface waters in the Pacfic Ocean.

Schleifstein reminds readers that:

It’s…been an unusually wet three months, with 25.92 inches of rain recorded at Louis Armstrong International Airport in December setting the record for rainfall in any month since records have been kept.

Buried in the story are interesting quotes attributed to Dr. Barry Keim, Louisiana’s State Climatologist, who has been fairly silent on anthropogenic climate change and global warming.

But don’t think this year’s cold weather disproves global warming, Keim said. “The bottom line is that no individual season tells you much about global warming, or the lack thereof,” he said.

Indeed, records of world-wide temperatures this winter have shown unusual cold hitting much of the central and eastern United States, including the Gulf Coast, and a band in Europe and Asia.

But data gathered by the National Climate Data Center indicated the colder-than-normal temperatures were more than matched by warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Arctic Circle, and much of Canada and southern Europe, Africa and Asia.

With all due respect to our state climate chief, who I know and respect, such statements contrast markedly with the campaign to oppose greenhouse gas regulation by Barry’s boss, who occupies the Governor’s Mansion.

Am I missing something or is there not an interesting story here?

Paul Rioux has an article in today’s The Times-Picayune about an important coastal meeting today in Jean Lafitte in lower Jefferson Parish, hosted by Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner. A technical review board recruited to oversee the controversial Donaldsonville-to-the-Gulf flood risk reduction project will hear presentations by the state and the Corps of Engineers on the status of the project.

The corps is scheduled to give an update on the project at 1:30 p.m. at the Lafitte Multi-Purpose Complex, 4917 City Park Drive, Jean Lafitte.

March 8

Yesterday evening I attended a neighborhood gathering in New Orleans called Great Huddled Masses, an informal group organized to discuss coastal protection and restoration that was founded five years ago by Marie Gould* after Hurricane Katrina. Hosts for the pot-luck dinner and meeting were NOLA residents Rebecca Kruse-Jarres and Bruno Steiner.

The featured speaker was Garret Graves, Gov. Jindal’s coastal advisor, who spoke for almost an hour, covering a history of Louisiana’s coastal crisis. He described a ten-fold growth in coastal project starts during the Jindal administration, with an even more dramatic expansion envisioned.

I was particularly struck by two points made during the discussion.

First, Mr. Graves expressed high praise for the Obama administration. He cited the creation of a brand new dedicated coastal restoration funding stream and the formation of an interagency environmental task force that has now released a strong policy statement on restoring the northern Gulf Coast: Roadmap for Restoring Ecosystem Resiliency and Sustainability.

Second was Graves’ response to a question about the controversial cross basin storm levee project across the highly productive Barataria Basin (Donaldsonville to the Gulf). He asserted that the panel of technical experts recruited to review the project will have serious authority re deciding the final alignment. This is important and excellent news.

*Who is married to The Time-Picayune Outdoors Editor Bob Marshall.

March 7

Today’s The Times-Picayune carries an article by Sheila Grissett that describes one of the more subtle environmental and economic costs of flood levees that was probably not anticipated during planning for the $14.6 billion flood risk reduction project now underway around New Orleans.

A section of levee in St. Charles Parish between Lake Pontchartrain and Airline Highway traverses an historic egret rookery, and construction activities to bolster the levee this Spring threaten the survival of wading bird eggs and hatchlings.

An environmental and engineering firm has been hired by the Corps of Engineers to shoo the birds away, using noise, lights and dogs. This concerns the growing number of people who have been attracted to the rookery to spend time (and money) observing and photographing the annual congregation of mating birds.

This illustrates one of the conflicts created by the use of artificial levees to separate human development from the ecosystem in coastal Louisiana.

March 6

Amy Wold wrote an article for today’s The Advocate about the potential for flooding within the Mississippi River delta as the unusual volume of snowfall in the Ohio Valley melts during the coming weeks. The Corps of Engineers tracks this potential closely and at this point the corps official to whom Amy spoke doesn’t sound particularly concerned – as long as the melting proceeds slowly.

I have no special insight about the likelihood of flooding in 2010, either from the river or the gulf, but the growing threat of inundation between March and October provides the perfect opportunity to educate the public about life on a delta.

The draft annual coastal plan that is up for legislative approval this Spring totally fails to articulate our unique and precarious deltaic balance between river stage and sea level. This casts doubt on the entire document and passes up a golden teachable moment.

Meanwhile our governor and other elected officials glibly dodge the increasing risk of river and storm flooding from climate change.

March 5

Two news items today are of particular coastal interest in the northern gulf coast.

First is the release on March 4 of the much anticipated Roadmap for Restoring Ecosystem Resiliency and Sustainability in the Louisiana and Mississippi Coasts from the White House that signals a dramatic increase in federal interest in and scrutiny of coastal restoration on the northern gulf coast. Mark Schleifstein describes this plan in an article in The Times-Picayune.

As reported by Amy Wold in The Advocate, the document is receiving very high praise by local and national environmental groups, who note that never before has an administration so directly committed to action on the most rapidly sinking coast in North America. I find it highly significant that climate change and sea level rise are directly addressed in the document, in contrast to Louisiana’s official denial that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat.

Second, speaking of greenhouse gas emissions and sea level rise, a new study described in DailyMail/UK shows that the melting of Arctic ice is resulting in the release of methane (CH4) at higher rates than expected. Methane is more effective at trapping heat from solar radiation than CO2, and as global temperature rises methane release will accelerate, causing even more heat trapping. That’s called positive feedback, not good news for the gulf coast. Read more.

Caption for photo in MailOnline: Researcher Katey Walter lights a pocket of methane on a lake in Siberia showing just how explosive the greenhouse gas is

Caption for photo in MailOnline: Researcher Katey Walter lights a pocket of methane on a lake in Siberia showing just how explosive the greenhouse gas is.

March 4

Louisiana is highlighted in an article in The New York Times by Leslie Kauffman that describes a national trend toward teaching high school students that anthropogenic climate change is based on faulty science – just like evolution by natural selection. Bobby Jindal’s administration has been a leader in this example of Luddite logic by championing SB 733, LA Science Education Act that requires high school teachers to instill doubt in science on the part of their impressionable students. This is a case where being ahead of other states, including Kentucky and Texas, is not a good thing!

March 3

Today’s The Times-Picayune carries an article by Frank Donze about New Orleans’ mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu’s new 30 member economic development team that reflect his priorities, which include (among others):

Advocating improvements to the Port of New Orleans pegged to the Panama Canal expansion project, which is due for completion in 2014.

The names include Steven Moret, Gov. Jindal’s secretary of the Department of Economic Development; Gary LaGrange, CEO of the Port of New Orleans; Dr. Tim Ryan, economist and chancellor of UNO; and Ashlyn Graves, an officer with her father’s engineering firm Evans-Graves Engineers – and kid sister of Jindal’s coastal point person Garret Graves!

I call your attention to a New York Times article by John Broder on the fact that climate scientists are being dragged kicking and screaming into the boxing ring of public discourse to defend their research – not something they’re trained for.  “Spin 101” was never a part of my graduate school curriculum; neither was “PR 201.”

Frank Lunz is one of the chief spin doctors for those in DC who vehemently lobby against the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Lunz originally conceived of substituting the phrase ‘climate change’ for ‘global warming’ because the former sounds less threatening to the lay public! I agree with NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, who advocates the use of the more apt phrase ‘global weirding.’

March 2

Some readers are aware of my run in with an internet scam artist last week that resulted in the capture of my email address book and a plea for money sent to many colleagues to bail me out of Edinburgh, Scotland. You can hear a podcast account of the experience from the Jim Engster show yesterday on WRKF-FM 89.3. To hear the interview click on the link and adjust the time to 40:00 minutes.

An article in today’s Daily Comet describes legislation being introduced in the US Senate by David Vitter to delay the certification of new FEMA flood maps in Lafourche Parish until work on local levee upgrades is complete. Based on limited information on my part, I would tend to agree with Vitter and with Windell Curole, who heads the South Lafourche Levee District, that the approval of new FEMA flood maps that ignore the existence of levees that have not been officially certified by the Corps of Engineers would not be fair to or in the best interests of the affected coastal residents. I say this as a frequent critic of the massive new levee projects under design or construction to cross the Barataria and Terrebonne basins (Donalsdonville-to-the-Gulf and Morganza-to-the-Gulf) respectively.

March 1

March is here and the biggest global coastal story involves the continued effects and aftershocks of the devastating earthquake in Chile that killed over 700, displaced millions and created the potential for tsunamis around the Pacific basin.

The New York Times carried an excellent exposition of the earthquake by Henry Fountain, who described the causes of this tectonic disaster, based on state-of-the-art science. This event is presumably not connected to anthropogenic climate change or the fact that the entire planet is getting warmer. Nevertheless, the forensic investigation of the causes and effects of this occurrence uses exactly the same physics on which climate change is measured and its impacts are projected.

So far, American elected officials and industry lobbyists have not called the earthquake science bogus. It’s painfully clear that in 2010 the scientific establishment is safe from challenge and derision only so long as no ones ox or economic sacred cow is being gored.

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  1. HeidiHoe says:

    To put a ‘positive spin’ on the Bay of Bengal island item, reckon some could be rejoicing that there is now more ‘shallow water habitat’ available…..

    gotta make lemonade outta lemons…..

  2. HeidiHoe says:

    Kind of reminds one of the olde songe ‘Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is; Does Anyone Really Care…????”

    Run to higher ground and things will be better; at least with respect to getting flooded out by the ocean’s waters……

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      I’d trade the time for a better grip on the causes.

      Looked up the Yale 360 article and stopped reading when I got to this howler:

      “And in some coastal areas — most notably along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana — the land is falling as well: Thanks to massive oil and gas extraction, the continental shelf is collapsing like a deflated balloon.”

      In this other Len post, “Coastal policy, science and the media are co-equal props for a shaky stool,” , he hits a home run:

      “I have long felt that the (limited) science input to coastal planning in Louisiana has been overly slanted toward surface processes (the wetland veneer) at the expense of the underlying geophysical and riverine processes. This reflects the widespread tendency on the part of the public and officials to forget or ignore the fact that we’re floating on a delta.”

  3. Don Boesch says:

    Len, per you comment with regard to the Bay of Bengal on different sea-level rise rates, keep in mind that relative sea-level rise varies greatly among regions, due to subsidence and other regional ocean conditions. Since the tide gauge at Grand Isle was put in during the 1940s relative sea level there has averaged a nation-leading 9.2 mm/year! The global average increase of open ocean sea level is about 3.2 mm/yr over the last decade or so, as estimated from satellite altimeter measurements. Here is a brand new commentary on the variability of sea-level rise among regions.

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      We might be able to agree on something here. The word “relative” is the most important word in the story/thread.

      Is the ‘zero” line on a staff gauge set in say, 1900, closer to, the same as, or farther away from the center of the Earth in 2010? Is the water climbing, descending, or staying the same? The only true reference point we have is the center of the Earth and it takes a tight GPS constellation to nail down its location. In 2006 some USGS troops thought they had pinned it down to about a 10 inch cube. I frankly couldn’t care less where the “stick” gets wet or what the number at that “line” says. I want to know how far away that place is from Pellucidar. That’s the only real number meaning anything.

      When a ship is sinking, we say “The water is rising in the hold” when of course the water is maintaining a constant elevation but the ship is in a descent.

      Very few of us have been fortunate enough to have made turning rejoins but everyone who has driven a car has merged into traffic from a climbing ramp of an interstate. If you can figure out enough relative motion to merge you can understand the idea that the ground and the water are both in motion.

  4. HeidiHoe says:

    Palermo likely wonders that also. The National Geographic’s book ‘The Medieval World’ (page 222) mentions that:

    ‘Palermo’s geographic contours today are not what they were in the Middle Ages. Since those days, sea level has dropped, the harbor has filled in, and the city now sits farther back from the coastline than it did in Medieval times.’

    Free public beach land now available????

  5. Kelly Haggar says:

    Who owns the beach? And how much of it? What about when the water level changes? NYT article this am:

    For we bayou country folk, the controlling case is probably Davis Oil Co. v. Citrus Land Co. 576 So.2d 495 (La. 1991); if the spit starts from a river, the riparian owner owns it. If from the coast, the beach owner owns it.

    See also, which is a nice cross section of where the various states place the line.

    From time-to-time the Texas “Open Beaches Act” comes under challenge. It has a “vegetation line” that doesn’t seem to be in the Roman sources copied and merged by Justinian.

  6. riverrat says:

    Per hydrokinetics – the advisability of parishes forming hydro-energy districts is one thing, but there are a number of reasons that hydrokinetics seems promising.

    First and foremost is its energy-return-on-investment (EROI) ratio, which means how much energy it takes to produce the new source of energy being promoted. At least some of the firms promoting turbines on the Mississippi have recognized the importance of siting them close to the cities and energy grids they’d be helping to power, rather than attempting to transmit the power over longer distances, which improves the EROI.
    EROI is often overlooked by officials (and ignored by industry boosters) but it is a critical consideration – shale oil extraction is being subsidized by governments, because it takes more energy to extract the oil than it delivers. It also causes massive water pollution – a bad deal all around.

  7. HeidiHoe says:

    The ‘load classifications’ are somewhat discharge/flow velocity related also.

    A ‘suspended load’ in one locale becomes ‘bedload’ in another locale and finally ‘bed material’ as the flow velocity decreases. Like when going from riverine conditions out into the Gulf…..

    Or as the rivers become a little less friendly during times of high water the process could reverse (bed material becomes bed load and then perhaps suspended load)…..

  8. Walt Sikora says:

    While on the subject of river sediments, there are several subclasses: the total amount is simply called sediment load; bedload is the material carried by a river by being bounced or rolled along its bed; suspended load is very small and light material, usually fine clay and silt transported by the river in suspension. The slower the river velocity, the less silt remains suspended. Clay in suspension however, is not affected by water velocity.

    What is not usually appreciated is the huge difference between the sand/silt component and the clay component. Everyone knows what sand is. Silt is actually just the finer and very finest grain sizes of sand. Clay particles on the other are much smaller than the finest silt grains and are tiny chunks of molecular lattice, so that clay can remain in freshwater suspension (even in totally still water) by forming a colloid because of the electrostatic charges on the surface, often negative which causes them to repel each other .

    However when the salinity reaches 3 to 5 ppt flocculation occurs as the clay surface charges are neutralized and these finest particles start to collide and agglomerate. The result is larger and heavier particles called flocs that settle out of suspension. That is why the higher the salinity up to full ocean salinity, the clearer the water.

    What does all this have to do with diversions and saltmarshes? Sands and silts settle first and are the primary delta building size fractions providing the base upon which marshes eventually develop. However established salt and brackish marshes are nourished almost exclusively by the flocculated clay fraction. Under normal conditions silt constitutes a very small percent of marsh sediment,and sand nearly zero, especially in interior marshes i.e. those some distance from bays, bayous and creeks. Keep in mind that tidal fluctuation and the redistribution of flocculated sediments (still much lighter than silt) up onto the marsh surface with each high tide is also crucial for marsh building. (Of course, violent storms can cover marshes and anything else with all kinds of sediments and debris.)

    So when discussing sediment loads, sediment deficits etc. it might help to specify what kind of wetland building or renourishment is intended.

    • Good comments, Walt.
      The corps didn’t expect either the Davis Pond or the Caernarvon diversion project to be affected by sedimentation. The rock containment walls around the “settlement basin” for Davis Pond became clogged with clays and at Caernarvon a huge man-made hole in the marsh known as big Mar has largely filled in with flocculated clays and Hydrilla roots.

  9. CoastGhost says:


    We have ID’d the problems: SLR, subsidence, erosion, invasives, and this list goes on.

    Debating causes of climate change, which was the big issue in the discussion, is a good thing, but placing blame (man vs nature, or both) does not solve our problems. Solutions still need to be developed.

    I appreciate the service Len provides here with this blog. Obviously needed, given the amount of posting on numerous coastal subjects.

    I dont, for example, buy into the ‘washing away’ thesis. So often, our problems are presented simply as an erosion problem when mechanisms such as subsidence probably play a bigger role. But, I otherwise agree with your point. If we dont understand the problems and the causes, we could be throwing away funds, time and efforts better used. OTOH, we dont need complete understanding to make some choices that benefit protection and restoration. (key word = compelete)

    Some of the techinques you’ve mentioned do some good, even with a River sediment defict, as the Gulf is also a source, just not nearly as much.

  10. Kelly Haggar says:

    Coast Ghost said

    “But, this ship is sinking, regardless of who is or is not at fault, and unless we patch the holes and start bailing, we are going down and will have to abandon ship . . . . we must adapt, one way or another, either structurally or restoration or a combination in southern LA or we will get wet . . . regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us, or we cause or contribute too, we always seem to try and engineer our way out of harms way. Are we going to do it, or just debate the causes? In spite of on-going restoration, we have not solved the problems of land loss and sea level rising , , , ”

    Here’s why debating the cause is important. Unless we have correctly identified the problem(s) then finding a workable solution amounts to luck.

    For example, if you buy the “washing away” thesis, then putting Christmas trees in wire baskets, and rocks, and chunks of the old Twin Spans, on shorelines makes perfect sense. So does making Vs of wave attenuation devices out in open water of former marshes. OTOH, if you have sediment deficit, then no amount of used trees will help us.

    BTW, I’ve spent some time with heavy hitter out-of-state engineers. Two little facts just stun every one of them every time I have a chat with one: (1) our benchmarks have velocities and (2) our levees face the open ocean protected only by the armour of . . . sod.

  11. Don Boesch says:

    Re. the Bill Maher Show “discussion,” Amy Holmes kept repeating that the science is not settled. But of course, important aspects of climate change science do remain unsettled. But, as Gavin Schmidt explains (, in answer to colloquial questions like “Is anthropogenic warming real?”, the answer is yes with high confidence.

    On her other points about this year’s blizzards and IPCC glitches about the Himalayan glaciers and how much of the Netherlands is below sea level, I humbly recommend my blog post

    Former NM Governor Gary Johnson, a libertarian who advocates marijuana legalization, made two points: climate change effects have been exaggerated and steps to reduce emissions will wreck our economy. I’m not aware of much scientific literature, much less consensus, that supports either of his assertions.

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      Loose ends . . . . I’m not sure what support for medical or decrim ‘d weed has to do with climate . . . or “science” with economics . . . but below is a biz mag’s take on Chu.

      The only “Deming” I’d heard of before I got the email was the Charles of TQM fame (d. 1999 or so). I looked up the same Wiki page you did to find out who this Deming was, saw the gun letter to the feminist, and figured that combination was a cat that ought to be set among AGW pigeons.

      Chortling At Chu
      Investors Business Daily
      Posted 03/12/2010 07:12 PM ET

  12. Coast Ghost- with respect to ‘engineering,’ and being ‘alluded to here,’ I was meaning to the site here in general.

    I think that after doing a quick scan of the various threads one could conclude that ‘engineering’ is a bad thing……

    So reckon you’ll all have to patch the holes and bail without ‘engineering’ for it all to work out OK……

    Which is OK too; I’m sure it somehow can be done as we ride our Milankovich cycles into the sunset….

  13. HeidiHoe says:

    No, didn’t say only scientists flying produces CO2.

    Its all a matter of perspective.

    Just like Berkeley saying a 10,000 square foot house is ‘environmentally OK,’ I reckon its totally OK fer people to get on a jet, fly to exotic places, and there present papers on the topic of harmful CO2 emissions going on. As they help contribute to the needless emitting of CO2 in the process doing so.

    Especially when they could in this day and age do this all via electronic link-ups/teleconferencing.

    I’m sure the 10,000 square foot house’s environmental certification makes it totally OK too; if the ‘right people’ say its OK.

    Creatively applying ‘the book’ here at the link makes about anything supportable:

    Is that Milankovitch Cycle one of those new five- wheeled fellers I’ve heard about????

    At least Len’s latest post takes things back in time a tad further (400,000 years); as opposed to 50-100 years on the scientific graphs…….

  14. Walt Sikora says:

    HH seems to be concerned about air travel, and what propels those aircraft carrying passengers on their way to medical specialists and scientific meetings, ultimately producing all that CO2.

    Right On HH! The total number of aircraft miles flown is certainly an activity that needs to curtailed as well over 50% is probably superfluous and redundant. A really good place to start cutting down on CO2 emissions.

    Or on the other hand, does HH think that only when scientists fly that CO2 is produced?

  15. CoastGhost says:

    HH- I certainly did not allude to engineering as bad stuff. Structural, yes, engineered solutions are a vital part of our tool box. But not our only tool.

    And, I’ve never been to an overseas conference.

    Also, land loss in coastal Louisiana is anything but natural, though natural forces are at play here. We’ve sliced and diced the coast with canals which also contibute to the accelerated pace of land loss. Just look at a graph of coastal land building over the past 7,000 years, then look at how much was lost how fast. Strong connection to our activities there.

    We’ve heard how the Chilean earthquake shifted Earth on her axis and shifted the length of days. Does this effect the Milankovitch cylcle? I have no clue. Just wondering.

  16. HeidiHoe says:

    I reckon it’s all a matter of perspective.

    Kind of like the touching story at this link; about an Environmental Philanthropist and the ‘green house’ he’d like to build:

    So is the house indeed ‘green????’

  17. HeidiHoe says:

    And meanwhiles, we all hop on airplanes at a moment’s whim for a trip to the next exotic overseas conference; to be there and debate man caused carbon input to the global crisis…….. wonder how those planes are propelled?????

    Like there is no care in the world

    Today’s land lost is tomorrow’s land gained when the water levels cycle back downward.

    Patching holes and bailing sounds like ‘engineering’ to me; which is bad stuff as alluded to here……

    • Don Boesch says:

      Oh, OK, we’ll just ask folks to be patient and wait 100,000 years (about the frequency of a Milankovitch cycle), until the next interglacial period with stable sea levels again creates extensive coastal wetlands in Louisiana. Awfully sorry we blew this one, better luck next time.

  18. CoastGhost says:

    I totally agree with DB here. We know things were warmer farther north in the past and a sea existed near where the Rocky Mt range is currently but regardless of all else, given the changes we SEE and can monitor with data, it is obvious we are moving in that direction, even if we never get back to those levels, ever.

    But, this ship is sinking, regardless of who is or is not at fault, and unless we patch the holes and start bailing, we are going down and will have to abandon ship.

    Sea level is rising. Rates appear to be accelerating. We must adapt, one way or another, either structurally or restoration or a combination in southern LA or we will get wet. Maybe we here are too old to worry about that time, but it seems to be coming fast enough that any kin remaining in the coast after we are gone will have very serious issues to solve.

    Regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us, or we cause or contribute too, we always seem to try and engineer our way out of harms way.

    Are we going to do it, or just debate the causes? In spite of on-going restoration, we have not solved the problems of land loss and sea level rising over whats left yet.

    There is much to do.

  19. HeidiHoe says:

    as some sort of perspective of things, compare the few ‘millimeters per year’ to ‘hundreds of feet’ over the long term.

    Draw a line in the street to a length of 300 feet long and compare that line to one drawn next to it of 10 millimeters long……

    • Don Boesch says:

      There may be some who want to discuss what happened during the last deglaciation, which was not caused by humans in any case. But, the fact is that global sea level rose less than 1 m during the 4000 years of so that humans have occupied Louisiana and far less than that since the Lemoyme brothers brought European settlement ( I presented one credible analysis that suggests a 1 to 1.5 m rise in the next 90 years if GHG emissions continue to grow as they have.

  20. HeidiHoe says:

    Like the closing slide says,

    “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.”

    Most of the graphs extend all the way back to perhaps the 1950’s +/-……..

    Would be interesting to extrapolate them back perhaps 1000 years or more and see what the ‘trends’ are then projected to be……

    Using a span of 50 years of geologic time might indeed be trying to fool ourselves….

    I like this book for reality checks on statistical analyses:

    I believe it discusses the topic of ‘truncating graphs’ for achieving desired effects…..

  21. HeidiHoe says:

    Oh but it IS about AGW stuff; sea rising stuff, etc……

    Ice once melted big time to cause major floods; cool places now were likely once warm; oceans were once perhaps 300 feet lower than at present;

    was it AGW or perhaps sumthin else?????

  22. Speakin o’ ice reserves a meltin, wasn’t the Grand Teton area TROPICAL at one time???? Back in ages past???? Instead o’ wintry kinda sorta????

    What about the Missoula floods; and all the ice a meltin way back then????

    Was that rockets that did that?????

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      CO two has been at 6000 instead of 328 at times past. Thomas Jefferson knew there were sea shells in Andes. Wyoming was once under an inland sea.

      Within human times the Gulf was 100 miles out to sea and 400 ft shallower. Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard are only about 3,000 years old. Of course the world is changing place. For most of agricultural times, say the last 10,000 years, the world was colder than it is now.

      Ever notice that no indian mound in La. is on the downthrown side of listric fault? There are shell middens under water today but no mounds. Why is that? Why were the mounds built at all, and then why were they built near the faults and up the upthrown side?

      Hmmm. Somebody get shook up in the last 1,000 years and attempt to appease or placate a force they could not understand or control? Archs who spend time around geologists have done some head scratching over than one. It’s as plausible as theory as anything else other Achs have thought up, plus it has the advantage of taking all three dimesnions into account.

    • Don Boesch says:

      Emails, poison trees, MWP, Zip files, David Deming of all people (, Grand Teton, Missoula, Andes, Wyoming, when the Gulf was 400 ft shallower, Indian mounds! Let’s get back to discussing the theme of lacoastpost, i.e. what’s likely to happen to the Louisiana coast in the coming decades–on our watch. Toward that end I offer this presentation I made yesterday on Capitol Hill summarizing the latest science on sea level rise.

      • Kelly Haggar says:

        Read your pdf. Here’s my prediction for “what’s likely to happen to the Louisiana coast in the coming decades.”

        1. Most, if not all, of the coastal restoration projects will fail. Especially the Central Wetlands project will fail.

        2. If any of them manage to create any marsh long enough to still be there when the next Ike or Rita passes close to them, the high water marks after marsh creation will be unchanged from before, i.e. no measurable protection from storm surge will result from marsh. If you flooded before you will flood again. Gustav and Ike put water across the south foot of the Mildred Rd bridge on Hwy 434 just like the 1998 storms did. The next storm with a track like theirs will do so again.

        3. The donneybrook over who gets a diversion will result in too many too small too far south diversions such that none of them do any good.

      • Don Boesch says:

        Kelly’s finally got it! Likely sea-level rise accelerated by AGW is a very, very big deal for coastal Louisiana (mostly <1 m south of I-10) and nullifies many of the small-scale, near-term planning assumptions currently employed. It presents a huge challenge even at the present 389 ppm CO2 , which we have known for more than 150 years to have a heat-trapping effect, It will only grow more daunting as human emissions increase this concentration.

        • Kelly Haggar says:

          Sorry to disappoint. Hit “reply” too soon.

          Those predictions apply whether sea level rises, falls, or stays the same.

          At the Sep 09 persentation to the DNR folks we overlaid the fault maps on a bunch of restoration projects. All of them are on downthrown blocks.

          Worrying about AGW on our coast is like being on the Titanic and being concrned about the scratches in the veneer of a deck chair.

          Here’s what “getting it” REALLY looks like. When a guy in N.O. was still bringing 3rd world folks over to see US enviro laws in action I was the “wetlands” stop on that tour. In 2007 the program leader had a family conflict one day and asked us to fill in that whole day. That day was all Nigerians, 2 from from their oil ministry and 1 oil co troop. Kathy only got about 10 mins into her talk on coastal geology when the head guy put his hand up. “You have listric faults here?” “Yes, we do.” “Can we see one?” “If you like.” “OK, skip the rest of the talk and let’s go.” So we all piled into the Buick and hit the Northshore. We showed them the bump in Hwy 11 near Slidell and did the trip down Hwy 434 out of Lacombe.

          If you’re a 2 dimensional thinker and you live in the static world of maps on a plane then sea level rise looks scary. It’s when you add the third dimension and realize the map is on elevator with the “down” button pushed that you figure out the southern third of the state is pretty much toast no matter what we do with CO two or spartina sprigs.

  23. Walt Sikora says:

    Kelly Haggar.

    Whether the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia (CRU) e-mails were hacked or leaked is inconsequential as is the material they contained. It’s a real tempest in a tea pot.

    Climategate, a global warming conspiracy, indeed. A bunch of e-mails by some bozo-dips is supposed to negate anthropological global warming? Yeah right?

    What we need is a fool-proof way of determining whether the heat-energy budget of the Earth as a whole has increased. Preferably this fool-proof method would measure some natural system that has been around for ages, is very stable ans not prone to drastic fluctuations. Wait a minute, hold on, I think we have one of those! It’s called the planet’s ice reserves, and they are melting rapidly. According to physics, there is only one thing that can do that, heat energy. You add it up, it’s not “rocket science”.

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      One of Murphy’s other laws is that is hard to make things foolproof because fools are so ingenious. If the “stolen or leaked” aspect were irrelevant the defenders of AGW wouldn’t have spent so much time early on trying to discredit them as the “fruits of a poison tree.” Truly, I undrstand why you and Len and Don need to downplay Hadley so much. It’s fatal to your case.

      Ice melting . . . to buy into AGW you have to believe it’s both unprecedented and caused by us. That’s why “getting rid of the MWP” was so important.

      For society as a whole, not just we on this board, the ZIP file has been weighed and the result was those files, especially Harry’s Read me, meant much more than a tea pot. Cap and Trade could not pass before the leak and it won’t pass now. Neither China nor India will fall on their safety pins over Kyoto or Cpenhagen. Nor will we.

      Got an e-mail this am from a non-political guy in Oklahoma I knew in the USAF 25 years ago. We stay in touch from time-to time but I haven’t seen him in a dozen years. It was a relay of a 20 Feb 10 op-ed by David Deming from OU. He’s another geology PhD whose core data don’t agree with the AGW theory of the last 150 years.

  24. Kelly Haggar says:

    If “saving” the coast depends upon “put the breaks [sic] on global greenhouse gas emissions” then kiss it goodbye now.

    The best use of “very well informed and courageous decisions” would be to take geology into account and begin Len’s “unplan” from 7 Sep 09. For example, there isn’t enough sediment to go around, plus it’s not financially possible to move it to every place that wants some.

    The WORST thing La. could do is to attempt “retention of as much coastal landscape and its habitability as possible.”

    Just keep chanting the “science is settled” and “there is no debate.” Chant all you want. The people you need to convince are the voters and they’re not buying it.

    • Don Boesch says:

      I agree with the second point, which of course is the requisite for the my second point about retaining as much coastal landscape as possible. Hey, one and a half out of four, we’re making progress.

  25. HeidiHoe says:

    But all those trillions of $$$$ will fall as ‘pennies from heaven,’ and get the economy humming again….

    We’ll all be rolling in tall clover…..

    Perhaps with the trillions of $$$ the Louisiana blackboard can be swept clean ( all levees levelled, things re-plumbed and returned to natural, and then we start over from scratch)

    Its the only way to fly through this….

    Wanna buy a bridge, slightly used?????

  26. Don Boesch says:

    Len, the snow melt risk for the Ohio Basin as a whole doesn’t seem particularly great at present based on the NOAA snow cover maps.

    Most of the basin has no remaining snow cover with the greatest depths along the Appalachians–there is still about 2 feet on the ground around our lab in the panhandle of western Maryland. The huge amount of snow we received in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont as a result of the three East Coast snow-hurricanes has mostly melted off, slowly seeping into the groundwater rather than causing flash flooding.

    Off this topic, but related to your closing point on climate change, see the op-ed in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle by a distinguished group of Texas climate scientists “On global warming, the science is solid.” How about a similar manifesto by Louisiana scientists?

    • Don-
      I enthusiastically support such a manifesto. On the other hand the recent letter to the governor signed by 33 scientists criticizing his opposition to regulating industrial CO2 triggered a deafeningly silent response.

      • Kelly Haggar says:

        That’s what happens when the “science” has failed to make its case. The public has heard the pitch and concluded the fix is too expensive, among its other defects . . .

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      The Texas scientists in the Post tipped their hand when they twice claimed the CRU e-mails were stolen. No, they weren’t. Someone at Hadley with a conscience leaked them. I believe the network traffic analysis pretty well sews up the case that a hacker could not have built that file.

      Additionally, the Post article does not address the most damaging file in the Zip, Harry’s Read Me.txt.

      Above all that, for the AGW cause it win, it has to go 3 for 3 on these points:

      1. The changes we are seeing are outside the normal cyclic variation.

      2. People are causing it.

      3. The change is large enough and the consequences dire enough to justify trillions and massive revision to our society.

      #3 is of course the hardest sell. That sales pitch had already failed prior to the leak.

      • Don Boesch says:

        Hacked or leaked? Read an objective news account at and draw your own opinion. But who cares? It doesn’t really matter. The fact is that there is overwhelming agreement on all three of Kelly’s points (except the part about trillions and massive revision, he made that part up) by legitimate climate experts like these Texas scientists. As pointed out repeatedly by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, and other mainstream scientific organizations, this agreement is drawn from multiple lines of evidence, independent of anything discussed in the emails. So, let’s get beyond manufactured controversies and deal with what is scientifically documented.

        Coastal Louisiana is faced with highly probable risk of inundation by the rising Gulf and we can only do two things about it: (1) put the breaks on global greenhouse gas emissions and (2) make very will informed and courageous decisions that allow the retention of as much coastal landscape and its habitability as possible. Just doing nothing because someone tells you those emails were leaked rather than hacked hardly seems a prudent alternative.

      • Don Boesch says:

        Sorry for the Freudian typo. On option 2, I meant well informed, rather than will informed. Small font size in the comment entry box compounded by my presbyopia.

  27. HeidiHoe says:

    Probably best to level the entire system of levees and start over from scratch…….

  28. Walt Sikora says:

    Kelly Haggar,

    This is the second time I’m posting this comment because the first time it mysteriously disappeared after a day or so. So here goes:

    You are right it takes a lot of heat to melt ice because it goes through a phase change and latent heat is involved, It takes 80 (eighty) times as much heat to melt a given weight of ice than it takes raise an equal weight water one degree C. This phenomenon explains why the overall temperature of the planet hasn’t risen as much, so far, as it was at first thought it would. In other words, the planet’s ice is mitigating the overall temperature rise. When all or most of the ice is gone then “katy bar the door” — temperatures will rise very rapidly.:

    Also the Greenland ice sheet is melting more rapidly than glaciologists first thought or predicted. Early conceptualizations had the ice sheet melting uniformly from the surface downwards. The ice does melt first on the surface but the water doesn’t stay there very long because it drains via moulins to the bottom interface where the ice meets the bedrock. The melt water lubricates the interface between ice and rock enabling the ice to move more rapidly thus increasing calving of ice bergs where the ice sheet meets the sea. In addition some of the most recent research indicates that nearly as much ice is being melted from the bottom as from the top, because of the melt water at the bottom presumably.:

    Lastly, the perennial ice in the Arctic Ocean, i.e. the ice that lasts more than one winter season, is disappearing much more rapidly than first expected. In fact the cover of the Arctic Ocean melts more and more each summer season, and even after the ice reforms during the winter the thickness of this annual ice is decreasing. There are some who would welcome the opening the fabled “northwest passage” however the real danger is that as the Arctic Ocean heats up, permafrost in adjacent tundra lands will start melting and thus releasing huge quantities of trapped methane which is over 20 (twenty) times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere. Katy may have bar the door sooner than anybody expects!:

  29. Rocky Raccoon says:

    Frank Luntz is an interesting character. He is a hired gun to deliberately spin facts to whoever hires him. He is the one who christianed the estate tax as the “death tax”. Reading his memos should make it clear that there is no robust debate on the merits in Washington, it’s just savvy marketing packaging of ideology.

    You can read his presentation in favor of environmental issues by googling “The Language of a Clean Energy Economy”

    You can read is profoundly scary memo to Republican politicians explaining how they can excuse their anti-environment actions with flowery pro-nature language. PDF of the creepy memo is here:

  30. HeidiHoe says:

    Has anybody correlated sea level changes to the Orioles cumulative win-loss statistics????

    Might be worth a try; perhaps could get some season tickets as part of the ongoing research program…….

    • Don Boesch says:

      The O’s cumulative win/loss generally increased from a low point just after the move of the Browns to Baltimore in 1954, peaking around their World Series victory in 1970. It remained rather steady through their next World Series victory in 1983, then has gradually declined, with some ups and downs along the way. Still, even last year’s dismal finish was not as bad as 1988 (.335).

      On the other hand, the change in sea level at Baltimore over that time has been a much more relentless increase of an average of 3.1 mm/yr.

      Actually, sea level at Baltimore has a much stronger, but negative, correlation with the occurrence of Baltimore orioles (the birds) in Maryland. Of course, we need to be careful and not attribute causation based on correlation. It is not tidal inundation that is causing orioles to become rarer, but global warming that is responsible for both trends. In fact, the orioles (the birds and not the team, hopefully) are likely to be altogether gone from Baltimore and the state of Maryland sometime during this century. See our report Global Warming and the Freestate.

      • HeidiHoe says:

        Seems like the TRIPLE WAMMY combination of TORRID pitching; HOT bats, coupled with the rapid exhalation of large amounts of CO2 by wildly cheering FANS would contribute significantly to globular warming in the Baltimore area…….

  31. Kelly Haggar says:

    Meanwhile, back to Greenland’s ice sheet . . . stumbled across a 2009 article in the Guardian where a UK prof thought the size of the “tipping point” had been missed. Closer to 6C than 3 C. I wondered if the melt rate might be off if the tipping point was off. E-mailed him about melting rates and this was his reply:

    Greenland has been losing a lot more mass in the last ~10 years. That is unequivocal. The Guardian article relates to something that is slightly different, which is the point at which the ice sheet’s surface mass turnover goes negative. That is the point when runoff exceeds snowfall. Our calculations suggest that this point is further away than previously assumed. However, the ice sheet can still lose mass before this point from ice that discharges directly into the ocean. And this is what is happening now.

  32. not to kibosh the discussion on sea level rise, but i thought I would leave this link on the scuttlebutt page:

    Does anyone have similar graphics for New Orleans / SE louisiana?

    New York / NOMA imagines Coastal Wetlands (among other things) as protection from sea level rise:

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      Len might have to dig it out of the archives for late June or early July of 2009, but he has posted the Blum and Roberts prediction map of the coast in 2100. The Times-Picayune story was “LSU researchers: coastal restoration projects doomed to fail” by by Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune
      Monday June 29, 2009, 7:05 AM, The URL at the time was:

      The article unpon which the news story was based is:

      doi: 10.1038/ngeo553
      nature geoscience |
      Drowning of the Mississippi Delta due to Insufficient Sediment Supply and Global Sea Level Rise by Michael D. Blum and Harry H. Roberts

  33. HeidiHoe says:

    But then again I ponder the debate here recently about which direction the Chicago River actually flows; so maybe I’ll ride it out after all and see what happens…….

    A lot of interesting hydraulics out there fer shure….

  34. HeidiHoe says:

    Just taking about ten minutes and looking at a Globe is a good exercise; pondering the amount of ‘blue’ on the Globe as one slowly spins it around; and then stopping the Globe to ponder Greenland’s size and location in relation to all the blue…..

    No doubt about it, its high time to pack the bags and run for Mt Everest like pronto…….

  35. HeidiHoe says:

    good time to pack the bags and seek a place with larger numbers in the MSL statistic……

  36. Don Boesch says:

    For those readers interested in the latest scientific understanding of recent and near-term sea-level rise rather than amateur calculations, I recommend this new review by Cazenave and Llovel, which is fully accessible online They show that the land-ice melt contribution has been rapidly growing and is now about twice due to the expansion of ocean volume resulting from warming. Not good news for Louisiana.

  37. HeidiHoe says:

    Hopefully the temperatures won’t rise much above about 212 F (100 C).

    That would really cause the water to ‘expand’ a tad…..

    But taking steam baths could become the new thing then…..

  38. It is the warming of the ocean that causes most of the feared rise I believe. Water as it warms expands. 38 degrees or somethng is where it is at its most dense.

    This wil throw a monkey wrench into anyones calculations.

  39. Walt Sikora says:

    Kelly Haggar,

    You’re right, it takes a lot of heat to melt ice, Actually, 80 times as much as it take to raise the same weight equivalent of water 1 degree C. (latent heat of fusion)

    The ice on the Greenland Ice Sheet is indeed melting and melting much faster than glaciologists thought at first. Also the melt water is finding its way down to the bedrock under the ice via moulins and is lubricating the ice/bedrock interface thus speeding up the calving process at the ocean interface.

    The bottom line is that the planet’s ice reserves are absorbing a lot of heat as they melt. Ultimately this has a mitigating effect on the overall increase in average air temperatures. (It should be hotter actually is.) Once the ice is gone it’s “Katy bar the door”.

    Perennial ice (ice that lasts more than one winter season) in the Arctic Ocean is disappearing faster than expected. In June 2008 the Arctic Ocean ice cover was 55,800 square miles smaller than it was the previous June.

  40. HeidiHoe says:

    Greenland’s surface area is about 836,000 square miles.

    The Atlantic Ocean’s surface area is about 41,000,000 square miles.

    The Pacific Ocean’s surface area is about 69,400,000 square miles

    The Gulf of Mexico’s/Caribbean’s surface area is about 1,700,000 square miles

    As a perspective.

    Not sure how many SuperDome Equivalents that is but I’ll bet one can’t count it on their fingers and toes….

    Somehow Ma Nature has us a tad out gunned……

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      I used

      and their “Table 1: Surface area of our planet covered by oceans and continents ”


      Surface Percent of Earth’s Total Surface Area Area (Square Kilometers) Area (Square Miles)
      Earth’s Surface Area Covered by Land 29.2% 148,940,000 57,491,000

      Earth’s Surface Area Covered by Water 70.8% 361,132,000 139,397,000

      Pacific Ocean
      30.5% 155,557,000 60,045,000

      Atlantic Ocean
      20.8% 76,762,000 29,630,000

      Indian Ocean
      14.4% 68,556,000 26,463,000

      Southern Ocean
      4.0% 20,327,000 7,846,000

      Arctic Ocean
      2.8% 14,056,000 5,426,000

      Greenland’s area (matched by 2 other sites) came from

      • Kelly Haggar says:

        OOPS; wrong cite. National Geo only has Greenland at 810,810 square miles. It was the other two at 836,000 sq mi, which kicks up the average ice required to a 3,953 ft depth. My bad.

  41. CoastGhost says:

    Glacier scientists calculate that if the ice sheet of Greenland melts entirely, then sea level will rise about 7m. Antartica could add another 5m to that.

    So yeah, the amount of water would be significant.

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      For just Greenland (836,000 square miles but about 15% of it is ice free), and ignoring the volume reduction from ice to water, that works out to an average ice thickness required of about 3,830 feet. The ocean area of the Earth is about 139,397,000 square miles, or almost 167 times larger than Greenland. Each foot of ocean rise in this hypo would thus take about 167 feet of ice melting off Greenland. 7 meters is almost 23 feet. The thickest part of the largest glacier is barely 100 meters (328 feet) thick.

      Or maybe I’ve made a bunch of math and look up errors?

    • Kelly Haggar says:

      An entry on Wiki says,” If the entire 2.85 million km³ of ice were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of 7.2 m (23.6 ft),” where the cite goes to a 2001 IPCC source. That matches the 7m CoastGhost cited.

      Ran around looking for other ice depths. National Geographic gave the 100m/328 ft max figure, with an average of 50m, for the biggest glacier, the Humbolt.

      However, other sites give the total ice sheet thickness as high as 5000m and as low as 1500m but the average seems to be around 2000m, or 6562 ft. But, if that thickness of ice melted (again ignoring volume changes), the ocean rise would be more like 39 feet than 23 feet.

      Takes a lot on energy to melt that much ice. Somehow 100 years seems like a short time for that large a change.

  42. HeidiHoe says:

    the volume of the Pacific Ocean is about 173,700,000 CUBIC MILES; that of the Atlantic is about 85,200,000 CUBIC MILES; that of the Gulf/Caribbean about 2,300,000 CUBIC MILES.

    After converting that volume to SDE’s (Super Dome Equivalents) and figuring out the volume of ice available to melt……

    And not forgetting to factor in the effects of water temperature rising a few degrees; that expansion might be significant…..

    Good topic fer discussion at tonight’s bar call…… oh yes, the nightclub type bar and NOT the legal one……

  43. Kelly Haggar says:

    melting glaciers and rising sea levels

    Len and Ezra,

    Here’s a thought experiment that may help you two out:

    A fully loaded barge is floating in a lock. However, its freight, a single container, only takes up one tenth the cargo space of the barge. A crane tries to unload the container but accidentally drops it in the water next to the barge.

    Will the level of the water in the lock go up, go down, or stay the same?

  44. It seems to me that melting glaciers and rising sea levels are going to change the distribution of mass on the tectonic plates, hence affecting the frequency & severity of earthquakes and volcanoes. I’m not a geologist or seismologist, but this seems fairly obvious to me. What really worries me is that this may increase the rate at which molten heat below the surface is able to rise to the surface, further warming the oceans & atmosphere.

    • Ezra-
      You may be right and I certainly wouldn’t rule out a connection. Maybe a geophysicist could weigh in here.