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What the world will look like 4°C warmer
Will your grandchildren live in cities on Antarctica?
Micronesia is gone – sunk beneath the waves. Pakistan and South India have been abandoned. And Europe is slowly turning into a desert. This is the world, 4°C warmer than it is now.
But there is also good news: Western Antarctica is no longer icy and uninhabitable. Smart cities thrive in newly green and pleasant lands. And Northern Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia produce bountiful harvests to feed the hundreds of millions of climate refugees who now call those regions home.
This map, which shows some of the effects a 4°C rise in average temperature could have on the planet, is eight years old, but it seems to get more contemporary as it ages (and the planet warms). Antarctica is white with snow and ice, on the ground and, traditionally, on most maps. This map has turned the continent's western end incongruously green. And recent reports confirm that Antarctica is indeed turning green.
Few serious scientists doubt that climate change is happening, or that it is man-made. But the fact remains that many still have a hard time grasping global warming, partly as a convenient way of ignoring the destructive impact it is predicted to have.
Those on the fact-based side of this argument should realise that continuously bombarding the opposition with doom and gloom is likely to reinforce their resistance to accepting the new paradigm.
This map offers an alternative: lots of misery and disaster, but also plenty of hope and solutions. Not solutions that will lead us back to the climate of a few decades ago – costly and pointless – but solutions that work for the world as it will be, when it will be much warmer than it is now.
First, the bad news. Brown indicates 'Uninhabitable due to floods, drought or extreme weather'. Say goodbye to the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., to Mexico and Central America, to the middle third of South America. In Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar are gone; Asia loses much of the Indian subcontinent, including all of Pakistan; Indochina is abandoned, as is most of Indonesia. As the map mentions, “The last inhabitants of (the South-west U.S. are) migrating north. The Colorado river is a mere trickle”; “Deglaciation means (Peru) is dry and uninhabitable”; and “Bangladesh is largely abandoned, as is South India. (In) Pakistan, isolated communities remain in pockets”.
Orange is not much better: 'Uninhabitable desert'. That's most of the U.S. and the rest of South America, almost the entirety of Africa and the southern halves of Europe and Asia. “Deserts have encroached on (Southern Europe), rivers have dried up and the Alps are now snow-free. Goats and other hardy animals are kept at the fringes”, the map predicts.
Red is for lands lost to the rising tide (assuming +4°C adds two metres to ocean levels). This may not seem a lot, but this is where populations are concentrated. In the U.S. for instance, counties directly on the shoreline constitute less than 10% of the total land area (not including Alaska), but account for 40% of the total population.
But there is a flipside. Light-green stands for food-growing zones, and compact high-rise cities. That's Western Antarctica, “unrecognisable now. Densely populated with high-rise cities”. New Zealand, sparsely populated in our time, will also be transformed into a high-density population centre. There will be a lot more room for this in the northern hemisphere: Siberia and Canada, where “reliable precipitation and warmer temperatures provide ideal growing conditions for most of the world's subsistence crops.” And the UK, Scandinavia, Greenland and northern Russia, which will be dotted with compact high-rise cities to “provide shelter for much of the world's population”.
A warmer climate could even lead to reforestation in certain areas of the world, including the Sahel and Western Australia. The regions abandoned to desertification are empty, but not useless: they will be used for solar farming (green dots) and geothermal energy (red dots). Giant wind farms off the coasts of South America, Alaska and in the North Sea will generate the remainder of the planet's energy needs.
This map was first published by New Scientist, and republished by Parag Khanna for his book Connectography. Khanna speculates: “The entire population of the Arctic region today is less than 4 million. Could it be 400 million within the coming 20 years?”
Now is the time to buy property in Greenland – before it too turns green...
Strange Maps #842
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.
- A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
- A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
- Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.
The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.
Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .
The Barry Arm Fjord
Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach
Image source: Matt Zimmerman
The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.
Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest
Image source: whrc.org
There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.
The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.
"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."
Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.
What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord
Moving slowly at first...
Image source: whrc.org
"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."
The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.
Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.
Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.
While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.
Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."
How do you prepare for something like this?
Image source: whrc.org
The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:
"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."
In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.