Environmental 'Smoking Guns' Identified
Quiet Waters' continuing environmental lecture series focused on climate change and sea level rise.
Structured like a narrowing camera lens, the latest lecture at Quiet Waters Park
began with a look at global climate change, then zeroed in on the Chesapeake Bay
Third in the 10-part series, the lecture included presentations by David Herring,
director of communications and education with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bruce Vogt, a program manager with NOAA, and Catherine McCall, a member of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Chesapeake and Coastal Program.
Herring kicked off with an overview of data concerning global warming based on
what he said are consistent, repeated, long-term observations that are key in forming a solid basis for scientific interpretations.
The data—from long-term indicators of arctic ice thinning and retreating, to the rise of lower-atmosphere air temperatures—show that “global warming is unequivocal and largely human produced,” he said.
Herring presented 10 different indicators, each signifying that the world is warming.
Average global surface temperature has risen 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit
since 1880, according to his data. It also showed atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have climbed 36 percent since accurate measurements began in 1958. In the past century, the global population has increased from 1.65 billion people to 6 billion people, and levels of the three most abundant human-produced greenhouse gases, from the burning of fossil fuels, have surged, his data showed.
“Several smoking guns are pointing squarely at human activities,” as responsible for
global temperature rise, Herring said.
Vogt brought temperature rise and its effects a bit closer to home, as he focused on
the consequences to the Chesapeake Bay, its plant and animal life, and the people
who call the area home.
He said overall, the general trends that are occurring, and will continue, include increasing air and water temperatures, rise in sea level, higher rainfall, which increases streamflow, and more intense and more frequent storms.
In the Chesapeake Bay, the average rise of sea level is 3.5 mm per year. This region is particularly vulnerable since the land is slowly subsiding due to remnant effects of the last glaciation to our north. Over the last 100 years, the bay has risen about a foot, Vogt said.
Vogt offered specifics on NOAA’s approach to addressing current and projected
regional problems related to rising sea level and higher temperatures. Much of
the organization’s focus rests on gaining a better understanding of bay science and
fisheries trends through improved monitoring.
McCall’s talk concentrated solely on Maryland. Given the reality of warming, the DNR’s approach centers on adapting to projected changes to best protect the state’s
people, property, natural resources and public investments, she said.
McCall cautioned that managers should plan for a sea level rise of 3 feet to 4 feet over the next century, with a temperature increase of 4 to 7 degrees and higher amounts of spring runoff. The lower Eastern Shore is particularly vulnerable given the low elevation of large swaths of land, she said.
Due to the differences between the western and eastern shores, DNR officials are using a sector-based approach to adaptation planning, and creating vulnerability maps at a community scale, McCall said. As part of the process, mappers will identify coastal hazards and vulnerable populations.
McCall showed one of the more striking sets of photos of the night entitled “Visualizing Risk.” For downtown Annapolis, the first image showed an everyday photo from City Dock, the second showed the area with a sea-level rise of 4
feet, and the third visualized the city with a 4 foot rise and a 6 foot storm surge.
The projections were both illuminating and disturbing.
The talks generated almost half an hour of subsequent discussion. One audience
member asked about assessing an individual property’s risk for sea-level rise.
McCall directed her to the DNR’s coastal atlas website at www.dnr.state.md.us/ccp/
coastalatlas, where visitors can zoom in to the street level and see how projected
changes may affect specific properties.
The next lecture, scheduled for April 21, will look at installing solar power in homes. To reserve a seat, call Natalie Nucifora at 410-222-1777, ext. 206.