The Sea Level Threat To Cities Depends On Where The Ice Melts — Not Just How Fast

Glacial melting ice floats in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, in 2015 in Argentina. As city officials try to plan for a future of rising sea levels, they need a better understanding which melting ice will most affect their communities.

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

The world’s oceans are rising. Over the past century, they’re up an average of about eight inches. But the seas are rising more in some places than others. And scientists are now finding that how much sea level rises in, say, New York City, has a lot to do with exactly where the ice is melting.

A warming climate is melting a lot of glaciers and ice sheets on land. That means more water rolling down into the oceans.

But the oceans are not like a bathtub. The water doesn’t rise uniformly.

To understand why, think of the earth as a spinning top. When huge ice sheets — some are two miles thick — start to melt, it actually affects the Earth’s rotation.

“What happens is when you change the mass of the ice,” explains Eric Larour, who studies the frozen parts of the planet, “the modification itself makes the wobble change, and this in turn changes the shape of the ocean on the Earth.”

When the wobble shifts, the oceans shift as a whole, as if you were shaking a mound of Jello at the Thanksgiving table.

That’s part of the story, but something else happens too.

Many ice sheets and glaciers are so massive, they produce a significant gravitational field, almost as if they were small versions of the moon. The force is tiny, but it does attract nearby ocean water.

“So what happens when the ice melts,” says Larour, “is that there is less of it, so the ocean recedes away from the mass of ice.”

Larour’s team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has mapped how changes in these giant ice fields influence sea levels both nearby and thousands of miles away. They published their results in the journal Science Advances. For example, the ocean along Norway’s coast could actually drop a tiny bit if nearby ice sheets in eastern Greenland melt. Meanwhile, those Greenland ice sheets could raise sea levels by inches on the other side of the planet — in places like Tokyo.

Larour says this is useful information: “Out of all the masses of ice around the Earth — Alaska glaciers, Greenland, Antarctica, Patagonia, Himalaya — which ones are going to be contributing to sea level in New York?”

It turns out that in New York City, the sea level would be affected more by melting ice on the northern end of Greenland than much closer ice in southern Greenland, or even ice in Canada.

Scientists are now using this information to predict the future for American cities, but they’re also building in a lot of local geographical information. Oceanographer William Sweet is one of those scientists, and he has a personal interest in that future; he lives along the Chesapeake Bay.

“Right here on the Severn River,” he says as he sits on a dock on the riverside, “we are somewhere that’s very likely to experience 25 to 50 percent more than the global average” of sea level rise.

Sweet works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is putting together a sea level rise grid for the country, one that will factor in local conditions as well as the effects of faraway melting ice. The land along Louisiana’s coast is sinking, for example, as are parts of the East Cost. And off the East Coast in the Atlantic, a huge river of warm water — the Gulf Stream — could influence sea level as the Atlantic warms.

“Every 60 miles or so along the United States coastline,” he says, the grid will lay out for local authorities what their coastline will look like over the rest of the century under various warming scenarios. “So it really matters when you start planning … ‘I’m going to be prepared for one meter of sea level rise.’ Well, you might want to be prepared for four or five feet.”

He adds that one thing’s for certain: “Once you wait until you realize you have a problem, it’s going to be chronic rather quickly.”

Already, scores of coastal cities are flooding much more often than they used to. As the climate warms, that kind of flooding could become the norm.

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Is A Big, Blue Wave Forming Off The Political Coast?

Democrat Ralph Northam celebrates his election as governor of Virginia on Nov. 7. Members of both parties are wondering what that race and other recent success for Democrats will mean for the 2018 midterms.

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Democrats’ success in this month’s elections was bigger than expected, and was fueled in part by strong opposition to President Trump. In the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of chatter about whether that means a big, blue wave is forming off the political coast that could potentially crash into the 2018 midterm elections.

We asked Republicans and Democrats what the off-year elections could mean for their parties next year. Here are 5 takeaways.

1. Good news for Democrats

Democrats were girding for a narrow loss in Virginia’s gubernatorial election and had already begun to assemble their favorite formation — the circular firing squad. But that wasn’t necessary.

The Democratic base was energized. The 2008 Obama coalition of millennials, minorities, single women and affluent educated suburbanites showed up at the polls, something that hadn’t happened in 2010 or 2014. Democrats have been battling a kind of off-year election curse — they get their voters out in presidential years, but can’t convince them to turn out for off-year or midterm elections. Virginia may have finally broken the spell.

2. But, but, but… can the lessons of Virginia work in states like Missouri and Indiana?

If the Democrats’ goal is to take back the House and limit their losses in the Senate, they have to figure out how to replicate their Virginia win in places that don’t have the same number of affluent, well-educated suburbs. Virginia is a special place. In addition to that suburban population, it has thousands of federal workers who are focused on Donald Trump’s presidency and what’s happening in Washington, D.C., in a way that voters elsewhere just aren’t.

And there were limits to the Democratic victory in Virginia. They got their own coalition out, but they didn’t make inroads with the Trump vote. White, working-class voters outside of the big cities and suburbs voted strongly for Republican Ed Gillespie, indicating that the Trump vote in Virginia was stable from 2016 to 2017. For Democrats to win a majority in the House and to hang on to Senate seats in red states like Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia, they need to reach out to those voters in an effective way.

3. Democrats need a message that resonates outside of the suburbs

In many states next year, Trump will not be the radioactive factor he may have been in Virginia this year. Democrats know they still need an economic message — something Hillary Clinton never communicated in 2016. Health care is a big part of this. It was voters’ top concern in Virginia. Democrats are also hopeful they’ll be able to run against the Republicans’ tax bill, which is seen by large numbers of voters as favoring the wealthy more than the middle class.

4. Republicans are bracing themselves

Off-year elections are traditionally tough for the party in power. Republicans now control all branches of government. Historically, when a president’s approval rating drops below 50 percent, his party loses an average of 40 seats. So Republican operatives are telling their clients who represent suburban seats and those in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 to get ready, raise a lot money, and pay attention to their constituents.

Republicans have some structural advantages this cycle. Because they controlled the redistricting process in the majority of states after the 2010 census, most Republican members of the House are in safe seats. In addition to gerrymandering, Democratic voters are clustered inefficiently in urban areas. That means that Democrats have to win way more than 50 percent of the national vote for the House of Representatives in order to get 50 percent of the seats.

The mighty fortress of redistricting helps, but it may not be enough to hold off a giant blue wave, if that’s what ends up crashing on shore.

5. The solution for Republicans is – GOVERN!

Republicans say their main task is to show that they can govern. They need to pass the tax bill and make sure the government doesn’t shut down.

They have some control over that. What they can’t control is the president and his Twitter feed — both of which loom over the 2018 campaign. Midterm elections are always a referendum on the party in power, and they are often a reaction against the president. That’s what happened to Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2010 and 2014. President Trump has yet to show how he helps Republicans when he’s not on the ballot.

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Navy Ends Search For 3 Missing Sailors In Philippine Sea

In an image provided by the U.S. Navy, a C-2A Greyhound assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on Nov. 17. Three sailors are missing after the same type of plane crashed Wednesday in the Philippine Sea.

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Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eduardo Otero/U.S. Navy/AP

The U.S. Navy announced it has ended its search and rescue operations for three missing sailors who disappeared after the crash of a transport plane on Wednesday in the Philippine Sea southeast of Okinawa, Japan.

.@USNavy ceased search and rescue operations at 10:00 a.m. Japan time for three Sailors after a C-2A Greyhound crashed on Nov. 22. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families,” said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, CTF 70.

— U.S. Pacific Fleet (@USPacificFleet) November 24, 2017

“The U.S. Navy ceased search and rescue operations at 10:00 a.m. Japan Standard Time on Nov. 24 for three Sailors not immediately recovered after a C-2A Greyhound crashed on the afternoon of Nov. 22,” the Navy said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families,” said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, Commander, Task Force 70, according to the statement. “As difficult as this is, we are thankful for the rapid and effective response that led to the rescue of eight of our shipmates, and I appreciate the professionalism and dedication shown by all who participated in the search efforts.”

The names of the three missing sailors have not been released.

Eight other sailors were rescued shortly after the crash. “All are in good condition at this time,” the statement said.

The twin-engine, propeller-driven C-2A Greyhound, used to ferry personnel and cargo, was carrying 11 crew and passengers and was on its way to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) when it crashed.

“An investigation is currently underway,” the U.S. Navy statement said.

As we reported earlier Thursday, the U.S. 7th Fleet, based in Japan, has had several deadly accidents in Asian waters in recent months. In August, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near the Singapore Strait, leaving 10 sailors dead. And in June, the USS Fitzgerald, also a guided-missile destroyer, and a container vessel collided near Japan.

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When Making Books Was As Much Of An Art As Writing Them

Gray Zeitz at his 1915 Chandler & Price printing press.

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When was the last time you picked up a book and really looked at how it was made: the typeface, the feel of the paper, the way the words look on the page? Today, when people can read on their phones, some books never even make it to paper.

Once, bookmaking was an art as refined and distinct as the writing it presents. And in some places, like Larkspur Press in Kentucky, it still is.

For more than 40 years Gray Zeitz has been creating books one at a time in his two-story print shop near the town of Monterey. He works with the some of the state’s finest writers, including Wendell Berry and Bobby Ann Mason, and his Larkspur Press turns out just a few editions a year.

“I have had, and still do have, printers that come in that used to work on presses like this and they are just tickled to death,” says Zeitz, 69, showing me his 1915 Chandler & Price printing press. He cuts stacks of paper on another machine that dates from the late 1800s.

Zeitz left the University of Kentucky in the winter of 1974, half a semester away from finishing an English degree. He’d been learning letterpress work – the way individually set type makes an impression on high-quality paper –- and he wanted to make fine books, especially poetry. At that time, the letterpress craft was fading as printers moved to faster offset printing.

But to Zeitz the moment seemed right. He didn’t need electricity at first, or indoor plumbing. He’d grow tobacco to sell and they’d raise calves. Kentucky writers would be featured.

Later, to pay the bills, he added in smaller print jobs. “There was a point when my wife, Jean, came up to me and said, ‘Gray, you’re either going to have to start doing some of these jobs — job printing — or you’re going to have to go out and get a job.”

He began taking orders for things like business cards and wedding announcements. “That became interesting to me as well.”

In those days, Monterey was attracting hippies and musicians and artists and candlemakers. Early on they started a fall festival at Larkspur, and people come from all over the country to see the books Zeitz creates — to touch and feel their hand-sewn bindings and see the perfection Larkspur strives for in the pages.

“This whole concept of texture and lightness, there’s a kind of sensual quality just to the book itself,” says his friend Jack Campbell, who works in industrial design.

Gray Zeitz’s home in Monterey, Ky.

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Gabrielle Fox is a professional bookbinder who’s done lots of high-end work for Larkspur. Every summer she goes out to Colorado to teach at the American Academy of Bookbinding.

“And the books that they sell to their students to begin learning are Larkspur Press books,” she says. “The students come from all over the world to that school.”

Gray Zeitz sits on his porch with his two dogs.

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Zeitz has one full-time employee: Leslie Shane. “I have just sewn 20 of this little book of poetry by Erik Reece,” she says. “It’s called Animals at Full Moon. Now I’m just cutting them

Larkspur only brings out about four books a year, and they can be two years behind. If Gray Zeitz knew how to use a computer he could open the Larkspur Press home page and see the covers of 100 books he has on his shelves in inventory.

Some of the prices reach $200 for special editions, but the press is best known for the books they can sell for $20 or $25.

In another part of the shop, Gray Zeitz shows me the lead type, which he sets — each letter and space — by hand. “When the ink’s ready we’ll put this on the press and pull a proof and see what we have.”

At day’s end Zeitz shuts down his shop and walks up the hill to his house, which is a fading purple.

It’s a quiet house; Jean passed away four summers ago. His two dogs come over from playing in the creek.

“Well, I don’t intend to retire,” he says. “If I did retire then I’d just print books, so I might as well stay in business.”

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A New Ominous Clue In Search For Argentine Submarine

A relative of one of the 44 crew members of the missing Argentine submarine is comforted outside a navy base in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Thursday.

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The Argentine navy announced evidence Thursday pointing to an explosion occurring near the time and at the location one of its submarines, with 44 crew members aboard, went missing last week.

The news sent families of the crew into tears as they gathered at the Mar del Plata Navy Base, where the sub was originally scheduled to arrive on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

“They haven’t come back and they will never come back,” said Jesica Gopar, wife of an officer aboard the submarie. “I had a bad feeling about this and now it has been confirmed.”

It is still unconfirmed that the explosion, discovered by the U.S. Navy and an international nuclear test-ban monitoring organization, did indeed come from the ARA San Juan however. But a spokesman for the Argentine navy said evidence showed an event that was “singular, short, violent and non-nuclear.”

The spokesman, Enrique Balbi, also said the search for the sub will continue until its fate is known. As NPR’s Scott Neuman reported, stormy conditions and choppy waves have hampered efforts to search a 185,000 square mile area that is roughly the size of Spain.

The search area straddles the edge of the continental shelf, according to the AP, with depths as great as 10,000 feet. Experts say the submarine cannot withstand pressures that far down.

If the vessel is intact, another question is oxygen. NPR’s Philip Reeves reported earlier this week that the crew would theoretically have had enough oxygen at that time, but the Argentine navy says if the sub has not re-emerged, it could only have enough air for one or two more days.

The U.S. government has sent two P-8 Poseidon planes, a Naval research ship, a submarine rescue chamber and sonar-equipped underwater vehicles, according to the AP. U.S. Navy sailors from a San Diego-based command center were also helping with the search.

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