a weather report

I have just had a rather disturbing thought about the weather, or its function in human communication.

What if the reason why people blither on meaninglessly about the weather is not, as I had generally assumed, a sort of mutual grooming by which they indicate that they are high enough in each othersʼ regard that theyʼre willing to coexist, and even communicate meaningfully when there is something worth saying?

scaling the depths

Hereʼs a weird comment:

"But it is important to say we simply don't have any evidence in this paper to suggest that any carbon coming from these seeps is entering the atmosphere."

This quote comes from Professor Adam Skarke of Mississippi State University.  Context: this is an article about recent research into releases of methane from clathrates in the seabed off the American coastline.  As we know, a warming ocean is highly likely to lead to a greater trend of release of methane than has hitherto been the case, because the equilibrium level of clathrate formation and melting changes with temperature.  The released methane mostly is oxidised in the sea, adding a 2:1 molecular ratio of water and dissolved carbon dioxide to it.

Itʼs understandable that Professor Skarke would want to hedge his comments a bit.  But hang on...

The fact that a strong solution of CO₂ is being added to the sea in this way is not unimportant:

upper storeys

In the news today, NASA adds weight to the common – but curiously inert – conclusion that ice sheets are melting and seas will be rising.  One thing Iʼve not seen much of is actual adaption strategies to this.  Of course in the longer term it remains to be shown that there is any possible adaption which will avoid human extinction or reduction to a form of subsistence economy which makes the concept of adaption moot.  We can hope.

In the short to medium term, though, say we are looking at a 4–5m rise in average sea levels.  The timescale for this may be a hundred or two hundred years (the viability of current models for this is questionable; new points keep coming along to make it worse).  Iʼm particularly thinking about the impact this will have on the town nearest to me.  Much of the existing commercial centre will at some point be under water at normal high tides (rather than parts of it, every few years, at some high tides with a heavy swell).  How can adaption work?  Arguably there could be viable approaches which retain the existing town footprint – flood barriers are popular in some places, but I have doubts about it in this case; spending that amount of money for very small populations may not be an option.  So perhaps a more sensible approach is to require all new buildings or refurbishments to take sea levels into account over their intended lifespan.  (Though buildings are often used beyond their expected lifespan, especially during prolonged economic downturns.)  At this point, if a given piece of work is only intended to last a decade, probably there is no new requirement.  If fifty years, well, maybe occasional protection against higher storm surges than weʼre used to for all but the lowest-lying or most exposed.  Beyond that, we probably need to think bigger.

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